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COLLECTOR'S EDI ...
19 STORIES-5 NEVER- BEFORE-PUBLISHED.
FEATURING PHILIP K. DICK, ROBERT SIIVERBERG,
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Acknowledgements "Basileus" by Robe'l
Silverberg copyrighl 1983 by Agberg. Lid.
"The Soul Painter and the Shapeshifier "
and "The Palace ai Midnight" by Robed
Silverberg copyright 1981 by Agberg. Lid
Robert Silverberg Appreciation" by Harlan
Ellison copyrighl £ 1983 by The Kilimanjaro
Corporalion "Helen O'Loy by Lesler del Rey
reprinted b\ permission ol the author and
the author's agents, Scott Meredith Literary
Agency. Inc . 845 Third Avenue. New York. New
York 10022 "Down There" by Damon Knighl
reprinted by permission ol the author. "The
Touch'" by Gregory Benford copyrighl IB 1953
by Abhenlord Assoc. Inc Cover painting
by James Christen sen courtesy ot the Will Stone
Collection Painlings pages 66 and 120-121
by Gerard Di-Maccio courtesy ot Galerie
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THE BEST OF
SCIENCE FICTION NO. 5
OMNI ENCORE/PART ONE
6 RAUTAVAARA'S CASE by Philip K. Dick
11 A TRIBUTE TO PHILIP K. DICK by Michael Kurland
12 ONLY YOU FANZY by Sherwood Springer
14 LESSON ONE by James Randi
17 PICTORIAL by Rudolf Hausner
24 THE HUNTING OF HEWLISH by Sam Nicholson
32 NEW IS BEAUTIFUL by Tony Holkham
A ROBERT SILVERBERG CELEBRATION
48 THE SOUL PAINTER AND THE SHAPESHIFTER
56 THE PALACE AT MIDNIGHT
63 AN APPRECIATION by Harlan Ellison
SCIENCE FICTION CLASSICS
66 HELEN O'LOY by Lester del Rey
71 PICTORIAL by Chesley Bonestell
78 DOWN THERE by Damon Knight
SCIENCE FICTION ORIGINALS
84 THE TOUCH by Gregory Benford
THE LOST SECRET by Laurence M. Janifer
96 THERE WERE PEOPLE ON BIKINI by William Tenn
101 VILLAGE OF THE CHOSEN by Alan Dean Foster
OMNI ENCORE/PART TWO
108 MALTHUS'S DAY by Jayge Carr
113 PICTORIAL by Gervasio Gallardo
120 BODY BALL by John Keefauver
124 PRIME TIME by Norman Spinrad
130 IN THE HEREAFTER HILTON by Bob Shaw
134 AND WHETHER PIGS HAVE WINGS by Nancy Kress
139 PICTORIAL by Ernst Fuchs
autavaara's Case" by Philip K.
Dick is a startling and provocative metaphor concerning religion— in
this "case" the ironic contrast between Christianity and the theology of
a non-human species from a faraway planet. Glowing with vivid imagery,
the story involves an extraordinarily unorthodox conflict over the doc-
trine of the Eucharist. The message in Dick's brilliant construction is
that one's faith may be another's anathema.
Yiddish humor, such as that to be enjoyed in Sherwood Springer's
"Only You Fanzy," is encountered from time to time in science-fiction
literature. Avram Davidson has worked the vein — "The Golem," for ex-
ample — as has William Tenn, who with hilarious effect gave us the
memorable, "On Venus Have We Got a Rabbi." Springer's short-short
concerns a madam and a Mr. Lefkoviz. He performs a mitzvah (good
deed) on her behalf — but a mitzvah, maybe exactly it isn't.
James Randi's "Lesson One" involves a venerable stage illusionist
and his prodigiously gifted young protege. That Randi chose to write
about such a pair will not surprise those readers who are aware of his
colorful career as a magician and escape artist. But since he has also
gained great notice as a dedicated debunker of ESP and other so-
called paranormal performances, the denouement of his story is sure
to raise some eyebrows.
"The Hunting of Hewlish" by Sam Nicholson delineates the beguiling
aspects of a highly evolved civilization on future Earth. It's a love story,
although one quite different from the emotion-wrought romances all too
familiar since the Age of Chivalry. Nicholson's vision takes place in a
cool, super-sophisticated and somewhat complacent high-tech society.
In "New is Beautiful," Tony Holkham presents a postwar world com-
pletely different from that usually imagined. Instead of the stereotypical
retrogression to a primitive status, mankind emerges as a race of Ein-
steinian wunderkinder who are smart enough to know that even the
brightest of students can be enriched by a wise, experienced tutor.
The aliens saved the woman's life only
to tind themselves defending
their action before a board of inquiry
The three technicians of the floating globe
monitored fluctuations in interstellar mag-
netic fields, and they did a good job until
the moment they died.
Basalt fragments, traveling at enormous
velocity in relation to their globe, ruptured
their barrier and abolished their air supply.
The two males were slow to react and did
nothing. The young female technician from
Finland, Agneta Rautavaara, managed to
gel her emergency helmet on, but the hoses
tangled; she aspirated and died; a mel-
ancholy death, strangling on her own vomit.
Herewith ended the survey task of EX208,
their floating globe. In another month the
technicians would have been relieved and
relumed to Earth.
BY PHILIP K. DICK
We could not get there in lime to save
the three Earthpersons, but we did dis-
patch a robot to see whether any of them
could be regenerated. Earthpersons do not
like us, but in this case Iheir survey globe
was operating in our vicinity. There are rules
governing such emergencies that are
binding on all races in Ihe galaxy. We had
no desire to help Earihpersons, but we obey
The rules called for an attempt on our
part to restore life lo the three dead tech-
nicians, but we allowed a robol to take on
the responsibility, and perhaps there we
erred Also, Ihe rules required us to notify
the closest Earth ship of the calamity, and
we chose not to. I will not defend this omis-
sion or analyze our reasoning al the lime.
The robol signaled that it had found no
brain function in the two males and that
their neural tissue had degenerated. Re-
garding Agnela Rautavaara, a slight brain
wave could be detected. So in Rauta-
vaara's case the robot would begin a res-
toration attempt. Since it could nol make a
judgmenl decision on its own, however, it
contacted us. We told it to make Ihe at-
tempt. The fault — the guilt, so to speak —
therefore lies with us. Had we been on the
scene, we would have known better. We
accept Ihe blame.
An hour later the robot signaled lhal it
had restored significant brain function in
Raulavaara by supplying her brain with
PHOTOGRAPH BY HUBERT KRETZSCHMAR
oxygen-rich blood from her dead body. The
oxygen, but nol the nutriments, came from
the robot. We instructed it to begin synthe-
sis of nutriments by processing Rauta-
vaara's body, using it as raw material. This
is the point at which the Earth authorities
later made their most profound objection.
But we did not have any other source of
nutriments. Since we ourselves are a
plasma, we could not offer our own bodies
for the purpose.
They objected that we could have used
the bodies of Rautavaara's dead compan-
ions. But we fell that, based on the robot's
reports, the other bodies were too contam-
inated by radioactivity and hence were toxic
to Rautavaara; nutriments derived from
those sources would soon poison her brain.
If you do not accept our logic, it does not
matter to us; this was the situation as we
construed it from our remote point. This is
why I say our real error lay in sending a
robot rather lhan going ourselves. If you
wish to indict us. indict us for that.
We asked Ihe robot lo patch into Rau-
tavaara's brain and transmit her thoughts
to us so that we could assess the physical
condition of her neural cells.
The impression that we received was
sanguine. It was at this point lhat we noti-
fied the Earth authorities. We informed them
ot the accident that had destroyed EX208;
we informed them that two of the techni-
cians, the males, were irretrievably dead;
we informed them that through swift etforts
on our part we had the one female showing
stable cephalic activity— which is to say,
we had her brain alive.
"Her what?" the Earthperson radio op-
erator said, in response to our call.
"We are supplying her nutriments de-
rived from her body — "
"Oh, Christ," the Earthperson radio op-
erator said. "You can't feed her brain that
way What good is just a brain?"
"It can think," we said.
"All right We'll take over now," the Earth-
person radio operator said. "But there will
be an inquiry."
"Was il not right to save her brain?" we
asked. 'After all, the psyche is located in
the brain. The physical body is a device
by which the brain relates to — "
"Give me the location ot EX208," the
Earthperson radio operator said. "We'll send
a ship there at once. You should have no-
tified us at once before trying your own
rescue efforts. You Approximations simply
do not understand somatic life forms."
It is offensive to us to hear the term Ap-
proximations. It is an Earth slur regarding
our origin in Ihe Proxima Centauri system.
What it implies is that we are not authentic,
that we merely simulate life.
This was our reward in the Rautavaara
case. To be derided. And indeed there was
Within the depths of her damaged brain
Agneta Rautavaara tasted acid vomit and
recoiled in fear and aversion. All around
her EX208 lay in splinters. She could see
Travis and Elms; they had been torn to
bloody bits, and the blood had frozen. Ice
covered the interior of the globe. Air gone,
temperature gone . . . What's keeping me
alive? she wondered. She put her hands
up and tduched her face— or rather tried
to touch her face. My helmet, she thought.
/ got it on in time.
The ice, which covered everything, be-
gan to melt. The severed arms and legs of
her two companions rejoined their bodies.
Basalt fragments, embedded in the hull of
the globe, withdrew and flew away.
Time. Agneta realized, is running back-
ward. How strange!
Air returned; she heard the dull tone of
the indicator horn. Travis and Elms, grog-
gily, got to their feet. They stared around
them, bewildered. She felt like laughing.
but it was loo grim lor that. Apparently the
force ot the impact had caused a local time
"Both of you sit down," she said.
Travis said thickly, "I — okay; you're right."
He seated himself at his console and
pressed the button that strapped him se-
curely in place. Elms, however, just stood.
"We were hit by rather large particles.'
"Yes," Elms said.
"Large enough and with enough impact
to perturb time," Agneta said. "So we've
gone back to before the event."
"Well, the magnetic fields are partly re-
sponsible, "Travis said. He rubbed his eyes:
his hands shook. "Get your helmet otf, Ag-
neta. You don't really need it."
"But the impact is coming," she said.
Both men glanced at her.
"We'll repeat Ihe accident," she said.
"Shit," Travis said. "I'll take the EX out of
here." He pushed many keys on his con-
sole. "It'll miss us."
Agneta removed her helmet. She stepped
out of her boots, picked them up . . . and
then saw the figure.
The figure stood behind the three of them.
It was Christ.
"Look," she said to Travis and Elms.
The figure wore a traditional white robe
and sandals: his hair was long and f
with what looked like moonlight, r
his iace was gentle and wise. Just like in
the holoads the churches back home put
out. Agneta thought. Robed, bearded, wise
and gentle, and his arms slightly raised.
Even the nimbus is there. How odd that our
preconceptions were so accurate!
"Oh, my God," Travis said, Both men
stared, and she stared, too. "He's come
"Well, it's fine with me," Elms said.
"Sure, it would be fine with you," Travis
said bitterly. "You have no wife and chil-
dren. And what about Agneta? She's only
three hundred years old; she's a baby."
Christ said, "I am the vine, you are the
branches. Whoever remains in me. with me
in him. bears fruit in plenty: for cut off from
me. you can do nothing."
"I'm getting the EX out of this vector, "
"My little children." Christ said, "I shall
not be with you much longer."
"Good," Travis said. The EX was now
moving at peak velocity in the direction of
the Sirius axis; their star chart showed
"Damn you, Travis." Elms said savagely.
"This is a great opportunity. I mean, how
many people have seen Christ? I mean, it
Is Christ. You are Christ, aren't you?" he
asked the figure.
Christ said. "I am the Way, the Truth, and
the Life. No one can come to the Father
except through me. If you know me, you
know my Father, too. From this moment you
know him and have seen htm."
"There," Elms said, his face showing
happiness. "See? I want it known that I am
very glad of this occasion, Mr. — " He broke
off. "I was going lo say, 'Mr Christ.' That's
stupid; that is really stupid. Christ. Mr. Christ,
will you sit down? You can sit at my console
or at Ms. Rautavaara's. Isn't that right, Ag-
neta 7 This here is Walter Travis; he's not a
Christian, but I am; I've been a Christian
all my life. Well, most of my life. I'm not sure
about Ms. Rautavaara. What do you say,
"Stop babbling, Elms," Travis said.
Elms said, "He's going to judge us."
Christ said, "If anyone hears my words
and does not keep them faithfully, it is not
I who shall condemn him, since I have come
not to condemn Ihe world but to save the
world; he who rejects me and refuses my
words has his judge already."
"There." Elms said, nodding gravely.
Frightened, Agneta said to the figure. "Go
easy on us. The three of us have been
through a major trauma." She wondered,
suddenly, whelher Travis and Elms re-
membered that they had been killed, that
their bodies had been destroyed.
The figure smiled, as if to reassure her.
"Travis," Agneta said, bending down over
him as he sat at his console. "I want you
to listen to me. Neither you nor Elms sur-
vived the accident, survived the basal!
particles. That's why he's here. I'm the only
one who wasn't—" She hesitated.
"Killed," Elms said. "We're dead, and he
has come for us," To the figure he said,
"I'm ready, Lord. Take me."
"Take both of them." Travis said. "I'm
sending out a radio HELP call. And I'm
telling them what's taking place here. I'm
going to report it before he takes me or
tries to take me."
"You're dead," Elms told him.
"I can still file a radio report," Travis said.
but his face showed his resignation.
To the figure. Agneta said. "Give Travis
a little lime. He doesn't fully understand.
But I guess you know that; you know
The figure nodded.
We and the Earth Board of Inquiry lis-
tened to and watched this activity in Rau-
tavaara's brain, and we realized jointly what
had happened. But we did not agree on
our evaluation of it. Whereas the six Earth-
persons saw it as pernicious, we saw it as
grand— both for Agneta Rautavaara and
for us. By means of her damaged brain,
restored by an ill-advised robot, we were
in touch with the next world and the pow-
ers that ruled it.
The Earthpersons' view distressed us.
"She's hallucinating," the spokesperson
of the Earthpeople said. "Since she has no
sensory data coming in. Since her body is
dead Look what you've done to her."
We made the point that Agneta Rau-
tavaara was happy.
"What we must do." the human spokes-
person said, "is shut down her brain."
"And cut us off from the next world?" we
objected. "This is a splendid opportunity
to view the afterlife. Agneta Rautavaara's
brain is our lens. The scientific merit out-
weighs the humanitarian."
This was the position we took at the in-
quiry. It was a position of sincerity, not of
The Earthpersons decided to keep Rau-
tavaara's brain at full function with both
video and audio transduction, which of
course was recorded; meanwhile, the mat-
ter of censuring us was put in suspension.
I personally found myself fascinated by
the Earth idea of the Savior It was, for us.
an antique and quaint conception— not
because it was anthropomorphic but be-
cause it involved a schoolroom adjudica-
tion ol the departed soul. Some kind of tote
board was involved, listing good and bad
acts: a transcendent reporl card such as
one finds employed in the teaching and
grading of elementary-school children.
This, to us, was a primitive conception
of Ihe Savior, and while I watched and lis-
tened — while we watched and listened as
a polyencephal ic entity — I wondered what
Agneta Rautavaara's reaction would have
been to a Savior, a Guide of the Soul, based
on our expectations.
Her brain, after all. was maintained by
our equipment, by the original mechanism
that our rescue robot had brought to the
scene of the accident. II would have been
too risky to disconnect it: too much brain
damage had occurred already. The total
apparatus, involving her brain, had been
transferred to the site of the judicial inquiry.
a neutral ark located between the Proxima
Centauri system and the Sol system.
Later, in discreet discussion with my
companions. I suggested that we attempt
to infuse our own conception of the After-
life Guide of the Soul into Rautavaara's ar-
tificially sustained brain. My point: It would
be interesting to see how she reacted.
At once my companions pointed out to
me the contradiction in my logic. I had ar-
gued at the inquiry lhat Rautavaara's brain
was a window on the next world and. hence,
justified— which exculpated us. Now I ar-
gued that what she experienced was a
projection of her own mental presupposi-
tions, nothing more.
"Both propositions are true," f said. "It
is a genuine window on the next world, and
it is a presentation of Rautavaara's own
cultural, racial propensities."
What we had, in essence, was a model
into which we could introduce carefully se-
lected variables. We could introduce into
Rautavaara's brain our own conception of
the Guide of the Soul and thereby see how
our rendition differed practically from the
puerile one of the Earthpersons.
This was a novel opportunity to test out
our own theology. In our opinion the Earth-
persons' theology had been tested suffi-
ciently and had been found wanting.
We decided to perform the act. since we
maintained Ihe gear supporting Rauta-
vaara's brain. To us, this was a much more
interesting issue than the outcome of the
inquiry. Blame is a mere cultural matter; it
does not travel at all well across species
I suppose the Earthpersons could re-
gard our intentions as malign. I deny that:
we deny that. Call it, instead, a game. It
would provide us aesthetic enjoyment to
witness Rautavaara confronted by our
Savior, rather than hers.
To Travis, Elms, and Agneta, the figure,
raising its arms, said. "I am the resurrec-
tion. It anyone believes in me, even though
he dies, he will live, and whoever lives and
believes in me will never die. Do you be-
"I sure do," Elms said heartily.
Travis said, "It's bilge."
To herselt, Agneta Rautavaara thought.
I'm not sure. I just don't know.
"We have to decide if we're going to go
with him," Elms said. "Travis, you're done
for; you're out. Sit there and rot — that's your
fate." To Agneta he said. "I hope you find
for Christ, Agneta. I want you to have eter-
nal life like I'm going to have. Isn't that right,
Lord?" he asked the figure.
The figure nodded.
Agneta said, "Travis, I think- -well, I feel
you should go along with this. I—" She did
not want to press the point that Travis was
dead. But he had to understand the situ-
ation; otherwise, as Elms said, he was
doomed. "Go with us," she said.
"You're going, then?" Travis asked with
"Yes," she said.
Elms, gazing at the figure, said in a low
voice, "Quite possibly I'm mistaken, but it
seems to be changing."
She looked, but saw no change. Yet Elms
The tigure, in its white robe, walked slowly
toward the seated Travis. The figure halted
close by Travis, stood for a time, and then,
bending, bit Travis's face.
Agneta screamed. Elms stared, and
Travis, locked into his seat, thrashed. The
figure calmly ate him.
"Now you see, " the spokesperson for the
Board of Inquiry said, "this brain must be
shut down. The deterioration is severe: the
experience is terrible for her; it must end."
I said, "Mo. We tram the Proxima system
find this turn of events highly interesting."
"But Ihe Savior is eating Travis!" another
of the Earthpersons exclaimed.
"In your religion," I said, "is it not the
case that you eat the flesh of your God and
drink his blood? All thai has happened here
is a mirror image of that Eucharist."'
"1 order her brain shut down!" the
spokesperson for the board said; his face
was pale: sweat stood out on his forehead.
"We should see more first." I said. I found
it highly exciting, this enactment of our own
sacrament, our highest sacrament, in which
our Savior consumes us.
"Agneta," Elms whispered, "did you see
that? Christ ate Travis. There's nothing left
but his gloves and boots."
Oh, God. Agneta Rautavaara thought.
What is happening? I don't understand.
She moved away from the figure, over to
"He is my blood," the figure said as it
licked its lips. "I drink of this blood, the
blood of eternal life When I have drunk it,
I will live forever. He is my body, I have no
body of my own: I am only a plasma. By
eating his body, I obtain everlasting life.
This is the new truth that I proclaim, that I
"He's going to eat us. too," Elms said.
Yes. Agneta Rautavaara thought. He is.
She could see now that Ihe figure was an
Approximation It is a Proxima life form, she
realized. He's right; he has no body of his
own. The only way he can get a body is —
"I'm going to kill him." Elms said. He
popped the emergency laser rifle from its
rack and pointed it at the figure.
The figure said, "The hour has come."
"Stay away from me," Elms said.
"Soon you will no longer see me," the
figure said, "unless I drink of your blood
and eat of your body. Glorify yourself that
I may live." The figure moved toward Elms.
Elms fired the laser rifle. The figure stag-
gered and bled, it was Travis's blood. Ag-
neta realized. In him. Not his own blood.
This is terrible. She pul her hands to her
"Quick," she said to Elms. "Say. 'I am
innocent of this man's blood.' Say it before
it's too late."
"I am innocent of this man's blood," Elms
The figure fell. Bleeding, it lay dying. It
was no longer a bearded man. It was
something else, but Agneta Rautavaara
could not tell what it was. It said, "Eli. Eli,
As she and Elms gazed down at it. they
wa:chcd irlcnlly as Ihe figure died.
"I killed it," Elms said. "I killed Christ."
He held the laser rifle pointed at himself,
groping for the trigger.
"That wasn't Christ." Agneta said. "It was
something else. The opposite of Christ."
She took the gun from Elms.
Elms was weeping.
The Earthpersons on the Board of In-
quiry possessed the majority vote, and they
voted to abolish all activity in Raulavaara's
artificially sustained bran. This disap-
pointed us, but there was no remedy for
such as we.
We had seen the beginning of an ab-
solutely stunning scientific experiment: the
theology of one race grafted onto that of
another. Shutting down the Earthpersons
brain was a scientific tragedy. For exam-
ple, in terms of the basic relationship to
God, the Earth race held a diametrically
opposite view from us. This of course must
be attributed to the fact that they are a
somatic race while we are a plasma. They
drink the blood of their God; they eat his
flesh; that way they become immortal. To
them, there is no scandal in this. They find
it perfectly natural. Yet to us it is dreadful.
That the worshiper should eat and drink its
God? Awful to us: awful indeed. A dis-
grace and a shame -an abomination. The
higher should always prey on the lower;
the God should consume the worshiper.
We watched as the Rautavaara case was
closed— closed by the shutting down of
her brain so that all EEG activity ceased
and the monitors indicated nothing. We felt
disappointment. In addition, the Earthper-
sons voted out a verdict of censure of us
for our handling of the rescue mission in
the first place.
It is striking, the gulf that separates races
developing in different star systems. We
have tried to understand the Earthper-
sons. and we have failed. We are aware,
too. that they do not understand us and are
appalled in turn by some of our customs.
This was demonstrated in the Rautavaara
case. But were we not serving the pur-
poses of detached scientific study? I my-
self was amazed at Raulavaara's reacfion
when the Savior ate Mr. Travis. I would have
wished to see this most holy of the sacra-
ments fulfilled with the others, with Rau-
tavaara and Elms as well.
But we were deprived of this. And the
experimenl. Irom our standpoint, failed.
And we live now, too, under the ban of
unnecessary moral blame.
PHILIP K. DICK
AN APPRECIATION BY MICHAEL KURLAND
In the Pantheon of science fiction writers, in that durasteel
Valhalla With eternag as sp res 'C-served for those who Talked
the Talk and Walked the Walk. Philip Kendred Dick's place
is at the round table in a special corner of the Great Mar-
bleoid Hall next to Ihe electric fire — Ihe table reserved for
those who have striven and succeeded in that most noble
and most difficult task a writer can attempt: making his read-
It is good to entertain one's readers; but, after all, that is
a given. The reader is not captive. If he is not entertained in
some suitable fashion, he will close the book. Making the
reader empathize with the characters, making the reader
laugh, cry, gasp in fear, tremble with delight- -all these gain
the writer a seat in Ihe Great Marbleoid Hall. But making the
reader think, ah, there is the test of the Hero. For such is the
round table reserved. And there sits Philip K. Dick now, deep
in argument with the lady on his left.
II is my feeling that Phil, in his own mind, wrote neither
science fiction nor fantasy. Conceivably, he didn't write fiction
at all. Dick spent his life in a strange and alien universe, which
interfaced with ours only occasionally, briefly, and unpre-
dictably. He was the chronicler of Oz. It was his genius to be
able to transcribe the vision of his universe in all its mad glory,
and to exhibit it before his readers like a wizard lapidarist
displaying the many facets of a prize adamant.
Phil wrote of the future, yes. but it was the fearsome future
of his personal world — a world where the free will of man was
increasingly hedged in by the obsessive rules of a society
not of his making and by the bizarre abilities of machines
past his understanding.
The question of free will permeates Phil's writing. For him
the individual mind was the ultimate castle, constantly under
siege by the blind forces of nature, the enmity of one's fellow
man, and the cunning malice of animate machines.
Philip K. Dick's fiction is a complex mosaic of ideas, per-
sonalities, contrivances, devices, and imagery, contained in
a multilayered universe which only gradually reveals itself. It
is a universe usually not very pleasant, though the people in
it are, if anything, all too human. No heroes to be found here;
just fallible human beings, endowed by their creator with fair
shares of greed, tear, ignorance, and ineptitude. And these
mundane people, with whom we reluctantly but forcefully
relate, go through their dreary daily chores in fearsome and
oppressive surroundings, the least of which would daunt a
Although he concentrated on his protagonist and the hu-
man situation surrounding him, Phil Dick was unusually pro-
fligate with those structural and social ideas that are the heart
and muscle of science fiction. Phil would throw away in a
one-line reference a notion around which some less holo-
phrastic writer would craft an entire novel. The film Blade
Runner, for example, is based on something less than five
percent of the Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of
Electric Sheep 7
We can see ourselves mirrored in a Phil Dick novel. We
see the world around us and its various institutions, but the
Phil Dick mirror gives us a very special view. We look around
facades and behind screens and clearly discern the con-
fused little man turning the cranks and pulling Ihe knobs that
operate the Mighty W\zatd.
Philip K. Dick, a prolific, internationally renowned SF au-
thor, died of a stroke on March 2, 1982 in Los Angeles, Cal-
ifornia. He was 53 years oid.
Michael Kurland, himself an SF author (including Pluribus
and The Unicorn Girl,), knew Dick well when they both lived
in Marin county.
He could afford the best, but this one was on the house
ONLY YOU FANZY
Throughout the habitable domes of the
solar system, from Venus to the
moons of Jupiter, there are beings
who will tell you. if the subject comes up.
that the Titanians as a race are shrewd,
crafty opportunists of a high order.
This, of course, is a myth. True, there are
natives of Titan who may possess these
characlerislics, but they are probably no
more numerous, relatively speaking, than
similar inhabitants of any other clime. If
pressed for an example, however, one might
bring up Mr. Lefkoviz.
One evening, at the tail end of a busi-
ness trip to Mars, Mr. Lefkoviz rode a rack-
shu along the silicon streets of Crater City
until, finally, he reached the D2 Mescence
Mall. Fanzy's Place was third on the left.
Mr. Lefkoviz banged on the door with his
muggerstik. Through a peephole a pair o(
purple eyes gave him the once-over. The
door slid sideways, and Mr. Lefkoviz
crossed the threshold.
"Can I help you?" the girl asked. Clad
only in sandals and a simple yellow tunic
that was draped to a point lifteen centi-
meters below her navel, she was obviously
a Callistan, violet skin and all.
"I'm looking for Fanzy," Mr. Lefkoviz said.
"You have an appointment?"
"Can you tell me the nature of your busi-
"In such a place there is another kind of
"Oh." the girl said. "In that case /'//show
"No, I have to have Fanzy."
"I'm sorry. That's impossible ."
"For one thing, Fanzy's not one of the
girls. She's director here. And for another,
she's retired. From floor duly, that is."
"That she can be telling me herself. Tell
her Mr. Lefkoviz is here."
Persistence may indeed be the most
powerful force in our society. It was ob-
vious the violet-skinned filly was not going
fo dissuade Mr. Lefkoviz from reaching his
objective. She decided to let her boss han-
dle the situation.
The director was working on govern-
ment forms when Mr. Lefkoviz was ush-
ered into her office. If one liked his females
BY SHERWOOD SPRINGER
ample, Fanzy was ample. What was more,
even a critical connoisseur of amplitude
would have been forced to admit that
Mother Nature, in overendowing, had used
fine judgment in contouring the land-
"What do you want 7 " Fanzy asked.
"I want you, Fanzy."
"Are you some kind of nut or some-
"Is it only a nut, Fanzy, that would ask
At this, she dropped the papers on to
her desk and looked at Mr. Lefkoviz with
mild interest. Middle-aged, balding a little
on top, a certain thickening at the belt line.
and apparently an outlander with antece-
dents not dissimilar to her own, Mr, Lef-
koviz in no way turned her off physically.
In addition, he had that air of assurance,
quiet humor, and flattering determination.
He also was —
Fanzy slapped a lid on her thoughls. She
already had an adequate lover. As for
business, going back on the floor was just
"Mr. Lefkoviz, it's out of the question. One
of my delightful playmates will take care of
you. Have you ever been caressed by a
furry wogglie from Ceres? She's soft as a
"No, Fanzy. A wogglie I don't want."
"How about a mermaid, then? They do
it, too, you know. You just have to know
which scales to lift,"
"Oh? Every day I learn. "
"How about trying one of our rare woo-
woo androids, imported from Stateside?
Among other things, she'll blow your mind."
"Well, then, we come to the giant vulva
plant from Venus. You can slip into her up
to your armpits. Believe me, the massage
you get from her is the living end. I mean
"It's no use My mind is made up. For
you I've got plenty of robles. How much do
There is no shaking this clown. Fanzy
thought. Her simplest course was to name
a figure so outrageous the poor John would
have to beat a retreat. She stood up,
stretched her arms out to the side, and
gazed down at her extensive mammary
PAINTING BY ERNST FUCHS
architecture. Sums clicked in her head.
"We're looking at five hundred robles,
Mr. Lefkoviz," she said.
Mr. Lefkoviz was also staring at the ar-
chitecture. Then, pulling out a small roll of
currency, he peeled off five crisp hundred-
roble notes and placed them on the desk
in front of her.
"So who haggles?" he said.
Fanzy took a deep breath and let it es-
cape through her teeth. There was no way
out for her now. but — what the hell, she
thought, five hundred robles was five
hundred robles. As she picked up the
money and placed it in a desk drawer, she
couldn't help wondering what the current
record was in the G'ness Book.
An hour later she accompanied him per-
sonally to the door. It certainly had been
an interesting evening. Maybe she should
keep her hand in occasionally just for
practice. Too bad Lefkovizes came along
only once in a lifetime.
In that, Fanzy was wrong.
Early the next morning the door in D2
Mescence Mall was again hammered by
a muggerstik. There stood Mr. Lefkoviz.
"All night I couldn't sleep, thinking of you,"
he said to Fanzy, who hadn't yet got the
blanket fuzz out of her eyes.
"My God, Mr. Lefkoviz, it's the crack of
dawn. Can't we have some coffee?"
"So fine, bring coffee."
Fanzy looked at him with suspicious eyes.
"My price, you know, is no cheaper this
Without a word Mr Lefkoviz brought out
what was left of the roll and handed it to
her. She leafed through it and found it pre-
cisely correct. They dawdled through cof-
fee, and Fanzy led him upstairs.
This time, at leave-taking, she held onto
his hand. All things considered, clients of
his caliber should be tendered some ap-
"When am I going to see you again?"
"Who knows?" he said, "I'm going back
to Titan today."
"Titan? Why, what a coincidence! My
mother lives on Titan."
"I know," said Mr. Lefkoviz. "She gave
me a thousand robles to give to you."
ed (or (he past five
" "ountinq the
and he looked up just as the
stened. he heard something
ind polite inquiries,
the Big Question.
seemed to have sprung up between them.
With total candor, Willie admitted that he
had been in trouble with the law. Nothing
serious, but ii had meant not graduating.
To Rumson, the pattern was familiar. His
long-standing and otten-contirmed claim
was that people who entered this calling
were misfits unable to find a proper fit with
the rest of humanity — odd-shaped per-
sonalities with hard-to-accept ways of
thought and behavior who carved their own
places in society by synthesizing a fantas-
tic environment of their own. He recog-
nized in the eager youngster the hunger
that he himself had felt at that age— the
need to learn and grow in this difficult busi-
ness. It was only done at the feet of a mas-
ter, and as the two of them stepped into
the huge house that the boy had only read
about but had not dared to hope he might
visit, Rumson telt the weight of his sud-
denly acquired responsibility.
There was the required tour of the place,
with pauses to examine the artifacts gath-
ered over the years from all parts of the
world. They found the secret buzzer that
opened the bookcase, which revealed a
locked door behind it. They noted the
strange wall clock with the numbers subtly
transposed. A clap of the hands — per-
formed just so — flooded the house with The
Planets of Gustav Hoist from concealed
The questions spilled from the boy with-
out pause, and by the time they troubled
to look, it was past midnight. The small
room, the one with the sloping ceiling
against the roof, was assigned to the kid.
Meanwhile, Rumson went about covering
up the birdcages and latching the doors
in the usual bedding-down routine. Rum-
son wondered how this pupil would work
out, but he gave up such speculation as
premature. It would be weeks before he
would be able to answer that question.
As he ushered the cat out of his den for
the night, he heard a small voice at the top
of the stairs. The boy, outlined against the
hall light, called him. "Mr Rumson, do you
... do you know about the real magic, too?"
Rumson's heart sank as he heard these
words. He had been hesitant to broach that
subject with the boy, hoping that it would
never come up. Palmistry, astrology, all the
usual claptrap, he supposed. The other
studenl, years back, had been like that,
always coming up with that kind of crap.
That one hadn't lasted long.
"You'd better come down here, and we'll
talk awhile," Rumson said. As the boy made
his way down the narrow stairs, Rumson
began taking well-worn books from the
ceiling-high cases. There were the long
rows of books that were marked with red
dots on the spines. Those were on conjur-
ing. Although there were many volumes on
that subject, there were twice as many that
bore blue labels— the group Rumson pre-
ferred to call the bullshit section. From
among them the older man chose several.
The boy seemed rather apprehensive.
Perhaps he realized that he had hit a sore
spot. He couldn't help having heard about
Rumson's constant battle against the
paranormalists. his many articles and sev-
eral books on the subject, and his frequent
lectures delivered at places of learning all
over the world. Rumson had discovered
that the boy knew his personal history quite
thoroughly, and that was part of what made
him the Great Rumson.
"Look, young man. I've been poking
about in this magic business twice as long
as you've been alive. Do you know what
magic really means? The dictionary says
it's 'an attempt by man to control nature by
means of spells and incantations.' Well. I've
tried spells and incantations. They don't
work. Cheating works. That's what you and
I are involved in. We're actors playing the
parts of magicians. But real magic? As the
man said. 'No, Virginia, there is no Santa
"I think you're wrong," the boy said very
quietly. There was a total stillness in the
room, broken only when Rumson took a
deep breath and looked over his glasses
at the boy, who met his gaze confidently.
"Well, I may be. And perhaps you can
prove it. But I very much doubt it." He put
his hand on the small stack of books that
he'd selected. "I've confronted the authors
of all these books — scientists, mind you —
and I've beaten every one of them flal." He
could not resist the dramatic gesture that
suggested itself, and with his index finger
he toppled the stack across the table.
"I've gone about for fifteen years now
offering this check," he said, tossing into
the boy's lap the thin black wallet that he'd
waved before so many other audiences,
"payable to anyone who can produce just
one 'psychic' miracle for me. Fifteen years.
And I never gave up a nickel."
They both waited. Rumson's cat walked
stiff-legged across the table, picking her
way among the fallen books. The huge
clock on the far wall ticked thunderously.
Then the boy spoke.
"I've been doing some things t don't un-
derstand. I came to the city to look for you
because I thought you perhaps could tell
me what it's all about. I've been to some
of the labs where they test these things."
He fouched one thick volume on the table.
"I spent a whole day with this guy, He was
a dummy. Fell for everything. Used to read
magic magazines and thought he knew the
whole thing. Anything I did fooled him. and
he wanted to stick me in a cage to test me."
Looking a bit taller than before, the boy slid
off the chair and stood up. "But I didn't
show him any of the real stuff, because he
thought he could stick it in a test tube."
"Go to sleep, Willie. We'll talk in the
morning," Rumson said -wifh a sigh. And.
he Ihought silently, in the morning either
he'd convince him he was wrong or he'd
be on his way. The years that had passed
had not faded the memory of his own bat-
tle against the irrationality that hinted of su-
pernormal powers that seemed just out of
reach, and he was not about to enler fhe
lists again to fight that enemy.
The boy climbed to the upper room, fol-
lowed by the fickle cat. and Rumson turned
wearily (o his own room and sleep.
Like electricity. No, more like the smell
of a hot soldering iron. It was a foreign sort
of flavor in the air that Rumson could not
label but that had brought him out of bed
with a start. A glance showed it was very
close to sunrise, and there was a tingling
presence all about that was not part of any
experience he'd ever known. It had to be
the boy, he thought, and he headed for the
stairs. The door to the room was just barely
open, and the cat lay sphinxlike staring into
the soft gray glow that came from beyond
that door. As he mounted higher, the tin-
gling and the tension he felt mounted, too.
He reached the landing. Now he saw
into the boy's room. Willie was sealed on
the rug. forehead beaded with sweat, to-
tally occupied with staring at a ball-point
pen fhat lay before him. The tip of the pen
rose slowly and sank again. Again it rose,
and it remained erect. The entire pen ro-
tated and then rose an inch, then two. The
boy was frozen in the effort. Rumson walked
into the room to the boy's side, and he didn't
know whether he made a sound. He knew
what he had to do.
Together, the pupil and the master put
their wills to work on the object before them.
It rose strongly this lime, steadily and surely.
In the back of Rumson's mirid a thought
flitted. He had not been a pupil in a long
time. This was real. This was Lesson One.
^^ / . -^
"The rulers ol fr\e galaxy
like low-soaring birds over the deep blue
"How beautiful!" Roxanne exclaimed.
"From here, yes. A wretched sport. One
climbs into a narrow shell lhat dips and
tilts- — and the sun inflames the skin — and
the salt foam stings the eyes — and one must
grasp horrid, wet ropes."
"We've never hunted sailors."
"That's true. But let's hunt them on land."
'A hunt is a hunt, dear Sibyl. Shall we
share or divide our prey?"
"Sailors are not wealthy men. Even a
whole one apiece will scarcely make the
hunt worth the effort."
"How can you be so stupid? Sailing is a
"And therefore, dear Roxanne, the
sportsmen are poor."
Sibyl turned with a flouncing of lace and
sank into the soft cushions nested on the
opalescent floor. She picked up a crystal
cube and pressed it.
An inner wall of the room became a
viewing screen. Rainbows pinwheeled into
infinity as a voice asked, 'Animal, Vege-
table, or Mineral?"
"Primates or nonprimates?"
"Human or subhuman?"
"Terran or Galactic?"
The pinwheels froze. Sibyl called to Rox-
anne. "Come and help me. How do I an-
swer? There are sailors on all the water
Roxanne swung from the window and
sat beside her sister. "Well, do we want to
"1 really can't like Gaiactics. They're either
the wrong shape or too knobby or wear
their ears and eyes at odd angles."
"Then you know the answer."
Sibyl restarted the pinwheel and said,
The voice intoned, "Name the cat-
egories, from the greater to the lesser."
Sibyl sighed and said carefully, "Human
sports. Sailing. The Atlantic Rift Regatta.
The pinwheels gave place to a view of
the sailcraft now jostling for position be-
yond the starting buoys for the first race.
"Oh, drat," said Sibyl. "I programmed
wrong. These are only the boats."
"You should have continued the cate-
gories and said, 'Teams.' Now you'll have
to begin all over again."
"I won't. I hate voice programming. It was
my worst subject at school. Roxanne, dear,
begin all over again for me."
"No. Let's watch the boats. How else can
one hunt sailors?"
Sibyl leaned back against the cushions,
one arm curved over her head. "I wonder.
Does passion rose scent go with satin?"
"The boats are very beautiful."
Sibyl's smooth, curling lashes sank to
rest on her cheeks, and she slept.
The race took all afternoon to sail the
ancient Olympic circle. Roxanne followed
the maneuvers closely. When the race was
over, she softly ordered the screen, "Hold
for further category."
The three-dimensional scene froze in its
exuberance of sail and spray. Roxanne
looked at her sister. Sibyl was listening
"Teams," Roxanne murmured to the cube.
"Today's winner. Now inform."
A sailboat flashed onto the screen and
froze for a moment while the voice said,
"Name, Terran Hope." Another flash, and
a grizzled, still-handsome old salt stood
there, a broad smile on his face and a sharp
squint to his eyes. The voice said, "Name,
"Truly a brave breed," Roxanne ob-
served, "to court wind erosion of the flesh
and solar burning."
One after another the Terran Hope's
crewmen were displayed on the screen,
until a firm-jawed young man looked into
the recording lens. They scrutinized his
handsome face. He had a serious coun-
tenance and was frowning slightly, as if re-
senting the necessity of facing the throng
of reporters gathered for the regatta.
The voice intoned, "Name, Hewlish."
Roxanne gasped. "Hold!" She studied
the young man, then said, "Clear!"
The screen resumed being a wall, Rox-
anne jumped up. Sibyl stirred and re-
sponded languidly. "Where are you going?"
"Hunting. Will you come?"
"Beating the bushes isn't my style."
"No, dear Sibyl. You're the python coiled
on a limb above the water hole."
"The regatta teams will be at tonight's
ball. Good hunting, sister."
Roxanne left the room and entered her
Sibyl lay dreamily winding a blond curl
around one pearly finger, thinking of Hew-
lish — the hunting of Hewlish.
The sailcraft bobbed in their slots about
the yacht basin, prows to the pier and stern
lines to buoys aft. The sails had been taken
down and stowed away, carefully, and the
masts were but skeletons of glory.
The sailors were still leaving the boats.
Only Captain Mack and young Hewlish re-
mained aboard the Terran Hope.
The skipper eased the tension of the jib-
stay, walked lithely aft to the cockpit, where
Hewlish was sitting, and grunted, "Coming
ashore? We won't be altering anything for
"I'll stay awhile, Captain. I'm enjoying the
sea. wringing my holiday of every drop."
"I'm enjoying that, too."
"As you like."
Captain Mack turned toward the bow
again, but stopped. A slim, white-cloaked
girl, sun cowled and gloved, was standing
on the pier. Under the cloak her daytime
suit clothed her in gold from her cushioned
soles to her throat.
She spoke in a low voice. "Captain Mack,
congratulations. I'm Roxanne. May I come
aboard 9 "
"To be frank, I know about you and your
sister. The huntresses. The Hope's win to-
day gives us honor, not wealth."
"I'm not hunting now. I'm curious. What
is this satisfaction for which you roughen
and abuse your body?"
Hewlish had come forward from the
cockpit. "The freedom of direct action,
without robot interference." He spread out
his palms. "These hands haul the sails."
"Thus you've bruised and wounded
'And toughened them."
"How strange! I thought you would say
the beauty of the boats fascinated you."
"The aliveness of the boats. My own
aliveness. It's a feeling Terra lost many
centuries ago, Look at you, Roxanne —
cosseted, eating what robots give you,
making up deficiencies with pills instead
of with air and sunlight. A huntress? I pity
the fool who lets you catch and bleed him!"
"But I'm not hunting now. I don't under-
stand the aliveness of sailing. Can you ex-
"It can't be meaningfully explained, only
"Take me sailing."
Captain Mack growled, "Ask at the other
"No. I expect to be drenched, buffeted,
bruised, and salt stung. The only compen-
sation will be the undergoing of the fright-
ful ordeal with the expected winners."
"You'll get seasick, too," the skipper
"What is seasickness?"
Captain Mack smiled. "Want to sail, hey?
Come here at O nine hundred hours to-
morrow. Hewlish and I will take you for a
short run before the wind freshens."
"Thank you. I'll be here."
She bowed and walked away, swiftly and
Hewlish asked, "Why did you do that?"
"To get rid of her. She'll forget and ov-
ersleep. Huntresses don't rise early."
"Why would men pay to have her? Sex
is free, reciprocal."
"It's not payment on demand. The men
enjoy — and bestow, endow."
"What for? It doesn't seem logical."
"It's not. It's a primitive magic — a be-
witchment. Stay clear of Roxanne and Si-
byl, Hewlish, or before you know it, you'll
be without a credit to your name."
"Heed your own warning, skipper. You
were the one who invited her aboard."
"She won't come. Don't sit here, won-
dering about her. There'll be plenty of
women at the ball tonight."
The first-race ball was past its full tide
and on the ebb when Captain Mack ar-
rived, clad in his dress uniform. He saun-
tered around the circumference of the great
circular hall, smiled benevolently at the
dancers, bowed here and there to ac-
quaintances, and finally set his course for
the tables in the refreshment bay.
Alone at a near table sat Hewlish. cor-
rectly but not festively attired. He beck-
oned the captain to join him.
Captain Mack seated himself and said,
"I thought you'd have paired off and been
gone by now."
"Pairing seemed too routine — too cut and
dried. The women seemed dull. I suppose
it's their contrast to Roxanne."
"What could you see of Roxanne? Just
a shadowed face inside a hood."
"Well, I can't get her out of my mind.
Maybe it was her voice, or her manner."
"So you've been waiting for her?"
"She didn't come. I don't know what I've
been waiting for. When did you get here?"
'Uust now— to be courteous to the re-
gatta committee. I'm singleminded about
regattas. Women don't interest me when
I'm competing. All I think about is winning."
"The winning boat will have to compete
on Trivector. A shallow, rocky sea, and the
three moons play havoc with the tides. The
Trivec scouts are here already."
■ "Let 'em scout. Could you crew out there
for the Hope?'
Hewlish drew a deep breath. "No. I can't
get dispensation. You're lucky, being re-
tired and rich enough to ride your hobby."
They sat for a moment. Then Hewlish
asked, "Shall I program a drink?"
"Not for me, thanks. You're not drinking,
"I don't like robot bartenders. The cus-
tomer has nothing to say. I developed a
bartender that was viable along six cate-
gories; but the chief ordered the brain for
a political unit."
They continued to sit. At last Hewlish
came to life. "There she is! No — there's
something different — "
Captain Mack glanced at the satin-
gowned blonde who was approaching the
refreshment area, gracefully fending off
dance bids. He said, "That's Sibyl."
"Have you met both girls?"
"Seen 'em, not met 'em. On my last transit,
before I retired from the starship service.
They like to hunt in space. Spearing fish in
a barrel, that's what it is."
Sibyl approached their table. Both men
rose. She smiled. "Captain Mack? And this
must be Hewlish. Are you waiting for Rox-
anne?" she asked pleasantly.
The three sat down and Sibyl continued,
"Roxanne wouldn't come. She says she has
to get up early and sail. Ridiculous, don't
Captain Mack growled, "So you're hunt-
Sibyl shrugged languidly. "I ought to be.
It's no fun without Roxanne. I'm rather sad.
really. Twins sometimes are only half-peo-
ple when they're alone."
"You and Roxanne will have to take sep-
arate paths when you mate," Hewlish said
by way of rejoinder.
"Oh, I never think of it. Roxanne keeps
reminding me. I'm bored with hunting, but
I really don't want a change."
'A change from what? What are you?"
"I don't know. What are you — I mean,
when you're not sailing?"
"My job is to develop increasingly com-
plicated robots. I sail to use my human
muscles and skills — to know uncertainty,
"What horrid things to know! And you
must be very clever otherwise, making ro-
bots. You make me feel so stupid. Memo-
rizing all those category responses!"
"Galactic knowledge now encompass-
es several classes of what, for all practical
purposes, ate infinities. No single master
computer can do the sorting and reas-
signing. The human brain is still the most
economical computer. The least it can do
is the preliminary indexing. What's so dif-
ficult about responding to Animal, Vege-
"Because I never can remember how to
program for fish or birds, or flyovers or hats,
or why air, water, and transportation are
"The logic is very sound Is air Animal?
"But I'm not logical."
"Of course you arel Every human being
"Oh, dear me, Hewlish, nol" Sibyl
laughed, in light musical tones that charmed
him more than her gown. "I loathe boats
and robots, yet I'm amusing myself with a
sailing captain and an expert robotist."
"Would you like to dance?" Hewlish sug-
"Oh. yes, if you'd be so kind. Just one
dance, before I return to Roxanne."
The couple rose and joined the dancers
waiting for the next configuration.
"Young fool!" Captain Mack muttered.
"That's the last I'll see of him tonight."
But Hewlish returned alone after the
configuration. He said, "Her helix cab was
on standby at the flyover platform."
"You didn't ask her to pair?"
"Well, no, I couldn't, somehow. She was
gracious, but not interested. That is, when
we were dancing, I thought she was inter-
ested—and then I decided she wasn't—
and then I just wanted time to stop be-
cause she was so lovely — and her voice
was like music. She's — "
"Bewitching," Captain Mack completed
the thought. He stood up. "I've made my
appearance. I can go back to the tower
and shed these confounded ceremonials."
Hewlish rose also. Captain Mack said,
"Plenty of girls— ready, willing, and able."
"Yes, but Sibyl makes the whole routine
seem — routine."
When Captain Mack and Hewlish ar-
rived at the Terran Hope the next morning,
Roxanne was waiting in the cockpit. She
was wearing a black jacket, thick black
gloves, black waterproof trousers and
boots, and a close-fitting black cap.
"Do we sail the circle?" she asked.
"Today's race is to be from buoy to buoy
through the channels," said Captain Mack,
tightening the jibstay. "We'll take a look at
the course. It's always wise."
Roxanne watched them rig the sails,
which fluttered and whipped in the breeze.
"Back sail! Cast off!"
Hewlish jumped to the pier, released the
bowline, and jumped back, giving the boat
a vigorous shove Captain Mack continued
to warp the boat out of the slot with the boat
hook. When she was clear, they hauled the
sails over, she caught the wind, and the
hull pivoted against the rudder.
"How marvelous!" Roxanne squealed.
"No power unit needed at all!"
"The wind is power," Hewlish said. "Hu-
man muscles are power."
The Hope glided on even keel. In the
narrow channels the breeze shifted, died,
gusted again, and the boat tacked one way
and then another.
Roxanne said critically to Hewlish, who
was hauling the jib, "I perceive you sail by
the rule book, not by the boat."
"What do you mean?"
"Always at the same moment you follow
the mainsail. You don't feel what the boat
wants to do."
"You think you know better than I do?"
"I think I sense the boat better."
"We won without you yesterday."
"You were sailing an open circle. In a
channel the wind comes trickily. Give me
Captain Mack warned, "The boat is too
light with only three aboard. She'll heel over
when the wind freshens."
"Not completely over," Roxanne an-
swered. "I observed during the race yes-
terday that, when the sails lay over, the wind
spilled out and the boat righted."
Roxanne took the line in her gloved
hands. Whether it was a new breeze or a
quicker response, the Hope glided more
After the last channel, when they were
proceeding across the open sea, the ris-
ing wind came strongly and pulled the sail
away from Roxanne.
"On the rail!" roared Captain Mack.
Hewlish took hold of the jib line, close-
hauled the sail, and jumped to join Rox-
anne, who was clinging for dear life to the
"How exciting!" she chirped. "Much
better than hunting!'
The lower rail plowing a furrow of foam,
they flew over the water and gained the
lee of the mooring basin.
"Oh, I'm drenched!" Roxanne com-
plained, cajoling attention. "And salt stung
and sun inflamed! But I've never been
happier." She sprang to the pier "Thank
you, Captain Mack. Remember what I told
She ran joyfully away.
Hewlish said to the skipper. "The nerve
of her! She can't really handle a jib."
"Naturally— she lacked muscle power."
"I mean, in the channel. It was just be-
"She seems to have an intuition about
"But sailing has definite physical laws."
"So has singing or playing an instru-
ment, you know."
"Captain, are you saying the girl sails
better than I do?"
"No, Hewlish Calm down, man."
"Roxanne's too slow changing tack. She
continually plays the sail."
"Yes. Forget it."
"Do you want to replace me as jibman?"
"No, what's the matter with you?"
"Well, the boat did sail better. Maybe just
the weight distribution when she moved
forward to take the jib — "
"Will you forget it? We've got a big race
"Sure, sure. It's just — well — "
Thai afternoon Sibyl and Roxanne sank
onto their cushions and programmed the
channel regatta. Roxanne said. "Sibyl, you
must be ready to dress and helix to the
mooring basin. After the race Hewlish will
"You're certain they'll lose?"
"Thanks to my newly discovered sailing
talent, yes. I've shaken Hewlish's confi-
dence — and Captain Mack's confidence
in him. At crucial moments they'll hesitate.
That's the time for you to move in."
"He may turn to Captain Mack instead
of to me."
"I'll come with you and divert Captain
"Even so" — Sibyl looked sulky — "Hew-
lish isn't real prey."
"To me, Hewlish seemed stubborn and
"You upset and contused him."
"I set him up for you. Don't you want to
"I suppose I do. I don't want him to lose
the final race tomorrow."
"Then come and watch the results of my
handiwork today. I've never known you to
be so difficult."
The Terran Hope made a good start in
the race but somehow lost her speed. She
fell off on the tacks and was sluggish around
the buoys, and her flying dash to the finish
pulled her only to a third place.
Hewlish was crestfallen and would not
follow the rest of the crew, ashore.
Captain Mack said. "Don't take it so hard.
With a first and a third, we're still leading,
Tomorrow we'll win."
"It's the circle again. True, I'm more used
to the circle."
"Of course you are. Come ashore— to
the casino, perhaps."
They secured the gear, adjusted the
mooring lines, and stepped ashore.
Two familiar sun-cloaked figures greeted
them. "Ah. Captain Mack." said Roxanne,
"now you must walk the gardens with me
and explain the race in detail. I shall scold
you properly for losing the current at the
"They set the buoy in the riptide. Whether
from ignorace or devilment," said Captain
Mack, "we'd better not inquire, "and he fol-
Hewlish said to Sibyl. "May I escort you
to your helix, or will you follow your sister?"
"Neither. I don't know what to do."
"Roxanne. She's so mischievous."
"Mischievous, indeed! I wish she had
never come aboard. Let. me tell you — "
Sibyl glanced around uncertainly "Must
we talk standing here?"
"No — that is — may I escort you to the
"Oh, yes. You must be hungry after the
"I'm disgusted with myself. 1 don't want
to look at food right now."
"You'll have to, in the pavilion. Besides,
you'll have to program for me. Food cate-
gories bewilder me."
They crossed a flower- bordered lawn and
entered the pavilion. The robot maitre
d'hbtel Hipped the number 33, and the
number over a corresponding table lit up.
"Oh, I'd prefer a window table," Sibyl said.
"The robot is programmed for the con-
venience of the serving wagons."
"Let's step aside then. Others can take
the middle tables '"
Hewlish looked curiously at Sibyl. "Do
you often circumvent robots?"
"Doesn't everyone? Step aside and let
this other couple have the table."
Hewlish stepped aside. One after an-
other, he bowed four couples ahead of
them, until a window table lit up and Sibyl
swept triumphantly past the glistening ro-
bot maitre d'hbtel.
As they sealed themselves, Sibyl said.
"Program for me. dear Hewlish."
"Sibyl, the food categories are simple.
Breakfast, Lunch, Tea. Dinner ." He reached
to the center of the table and turned the
order unit toward them. "Which would you
"Tea— but I want pancakes."
"Pancakes are a Breakfast category."
"No. Breakfast pancakes have syrup. I
want pancakes with jam."
"With Tea you can have waffles with jam."
"But I want pancakes Sometimes Rox-
anne and I program both Breakfast and
Tea. and I use her jam pot with my pan-
cakes. But she really doesn't like my syrup
on her waffles."
"Discard the watfles and syrup."
"Well. yes. but food wasting is the worst
crime in the galaxy. I'd be arrested if I left
food in a public place."
'Are you hinting that I should eat the waf-
fles and syrup?"
"Would you. dear Hewlish?"
"No, I would not. What a selfish ques-
tion! I don't understand why men endow
you with riches."
"Neither do I. But I did hope you'd en-
dow me with pancakes. You said you de-
sign the robots."
"Yes — which is why I can't see how you
acquired a taste for an unprogrammed
"Oh. but Roxanne and I had parents!
Parents make all the difference. The four
of us could program for six dishes and di-
vide and share and combine as we wished,
and not a morsel was wasted."
"Was your mother as giddy as you?"
"Oh, yes. Papa said that coming home
was like stepping onto a carousel. He never
understood why Roxanne and I left home
to seek adventure, but Mama wished us
"Will you ever say something amusing
to me. Sibyl?"
"Not while I'm hungry."
"I veto the pancakes. Choose a viable
"You choose first."
Hewlish programmed firmly, "Dinner.
Meat— steak. Vegetable— potato crisps.
Vegetable— mixed salad. Beverage— cof-
fee. Now serve."
He looked inquiringly at Sibyl. She said,
"The steaks are always small. You didn't
program a dessert You really could eat a
dessert, don't you think."
"Like watfles and syrup?"
She smiled a slow, dazzling smile. "It
would make me so very happy," she said.
He then programmed the pancakes and
He scarcely tasted his dinner, so be-
witched was he by her childish glee over
the pancakes and jam. Before he realized
how hungry he had been, the steak was
gulped down, and the waffles followed just
"I'm glad you suggested the pavilion."
he said. "I feel much better."
Sibyl smiled to herself. "What else shall
"We could dance more than one dance
at tonight's ball, though f would have to
leave early. Tomorrow — " He stopped as if
an electric shock had gone through him.
"I forgot. The race — the defeat— every-
thing. I forgot!"
"It's well forgotten. The defeat was my
"Captain Mack would rather have her
handling the jib."
"I daresay he would. And she'd put him
on the rocks fast enough. How could you
let such mischief destroy your self-confi-
dence? Forget today."
"I can never forget it."
"But. dear Hewlish. you just forgot it
"That was only because you were here —
because you — " He paused. "Do you al-
ways keep the carousel turning?"
"It's fun, isn't it? Why slop it? When shall
we meet at the ball tonight?"
'Just to dance?"
"What else does one do at a ball?"
"One pairs. If you're a huntress, you must
"But I'm not hunting. Shall we meet at
the same refreshment table, aboul nine
"Very well. Now you may see me to my
Meanwhile Roxanne had been at the Sail
Club with Captain Mack, scanning racks
"The whole sail theory, if you're inter-
ested," he said gruffly.
"I am. Such a vast array makes me (eel
very ignorant. I was impertinent to poor
"Yes. Upset him considerably, Hope he
settles down tomorrow."
"Oh, he'll regain his confidence by then."
Roxanne looked at the racks. "Sailing is a
"Do you read?"
"Yes. I was lucky in my schooling. My
parents believed reading was a good
"In that case I can lend you a book that
will be much less burden than cassettes
on the same matter. But I'm keeping you
late. Will you dine with me?"
"Yes, thank you. But only a brief meal.
I'm eager to begin reading."
"Excuse me. You'll take good care of the
book, won't you? Books are expensive and
hard lo replace. From observing you on my
last space cruise, I did not suppose you
even knew the alphabet."
Roxanne laughed. "Did you observe us?
Sibyl and I were quite awed by your au-
thority. It's nice to find you human."
"If I may say so. Roxanne, you're far more
likable when you're not hunting."
"I enjoy being myself. How and when did
it happen that literacy became the oppo-
site of pleasure?"
"The perfection of voice programming
and cassettes, I suppose, made literacy
unnecessary to the lazy mind — and most
human beings are lazy. Fortunately. If sail-
ing were easy, the sport would be clut-
tered by robot minders and button push-
ers, as it was in the Early Atomic Age, when
modern civilization began.
"But you'll find the history of the Sail Re-
form Movement in the book." he went on.
"A fair breeze and human brain and mus-
cle — there's the real sport."
"It's all very exciting," Roxanne agreed.
When Sibyl returned from the ball at
midnight, Roxanne was reading Captain
"You're taking great pains for my sake,"
"Captain Mack is no fool. By tomorrow
my homework must be thoroughly done."
"You underestimate my own powers with
"Never You danced closely, I assume.
He was dizzied by your touch, your per-
fume, your inconsequential, hypnotic chat-
ter. Did you pair?"
"I think Hewlish is worth more than pair-
ing. It would be fun to direct an inventive
"Why. Sibyl! Would you mate with him?"
"I don't know. It would be so permanent.
He's so serious. He'd never leave me while
the offspring were young."
'An advantage, surely? Nursery robots
are tiresome. Remember ours? Papa and
Mama were very useful."
Sibyl sighed. "But 1 do love luxury. How
much would you let me take, Roxanne? Your
jewels are grander than mine."
"Now here's a sisterly act. You leave me
hunting alone and empty my jewel cases
"Yes. And when you mate with a rich oli-
garch, I shall expect magnificent presents.
Our parents endowed us unequally with
brains, and it's only fair that your abun-
dance should make up for my lack."
Roxanne laughed and returned to read-
ing the book.
The third and final race was the closest
of all, The other boats, with few chances
of winning the regatta, determined to spoil
the day for the Terran Hope. Soon the pro-
test flag was straining from her mast top
as foul after foul blocked her progress.
Sibyl and Roxanne were watching the
race on the viewscreen.
"How unfair!" said Sibyl. "A protest does
no good from a tenth place."
"But the fouls only increase the crew's
"How do you know?"
Never before had the Terran Hope been
so tightly hauled. Never had she sailed so
close to the wind. Her opponents fell off to
leeward, and she outsailed them easily.
racing between the orange finish buoys with
a clear victory.
"They've won! Come, Sibyl," Roxanne
said, standing up. "Now we can claim our
Our? Sibyl wondered.
This time the Terran Hope was not so
easily approached. The pier was crowded
with well-wishers, regatta committeemen.
and Trivec officials who had come to offer
the formal challenge.
Sibyl and Roxanne waited until the cer-
emonies were completed and the crowd
was thinning. Hewlish saw them and went
up to them. They congratulated him, and
Roxanne strolled toward the boat.
Hewlish said to Sibyl, "Roxanne must feel
foolish, doubting my abilities."
"We both are pleased you won. But the
victory has agitated you. I doubt that un-
certainty, decisions, and fatigue are as
pleasant as you boasted."
"They're pleasant to experience and
overcome. The reliving of ihem is unpleas-
ant — the thought of how near we came to
failure. That's why I'm glad to see you, Si-
byl. With you. I can remember the victory
and forget the anxiety."
"Victory soon erases anxiety. Will you
dance with me at tonight's ball, please?"
"Will you pair afterward?"
"Hewlish, I like you too much. I don't want
to pair with you as I'd pair with prey. You're
too fine and honest. I wish the holiday could
"It can — as long as our nonsensical car-
ousel keeps turning. Will you mate with me?
I have little wealth, but you'd share it equally,
such as it is."
"Oh. I accept you, dear Hewlish! I'm sorry
you're not yet rich, but I'll never find a mate
more clever or sensible."
Hewlish put his arms around her, pulled
off her sunhood, kissed her smooth lips
and laid his cheek against her glossy hair.
She gently freed herself. "We must dine
and dress for the victory ball."
"A victory within and beyond a victory!"
Roxanne had been talking to Captain
Mack. They saw Hewlish embrace Sibyl.
and the skipper scowled. "She caught him.
I knew it. Poor fool!"
"I fear it's Sibyl who's caught," said Rox-
anne. "She spoke of wanting to mate with
him. Not a brilliant match, but she was bored
and restless. What was I to do?"
"Is Hewlish your doing?"
"I chose him, yes. Sibyl never has had
my zest for the chase. Her nature is softer,
more attuned to mating. I'll miss her dread-
fully, of course."
"You made a good team, that's for sure.
The old one-two," Captain Mack said with
gusto. "A man never knew whether he was
coming or going. You'll need a change of
"Later. When I start hunting again. Now
I'm fascinated by sailing."
"Don't hand me that sludge, girl. I'm not
"Exactly. Hewlish crewed for the Terran
Hope. You own her. I'm studying your book.
I hope you'll find a crew place for me if I
follow you to Trivector."
"Hmm. You are not nearly strong enough
to be a jibman."
"Skill is needed more in the light, shifting
breezes than in the steady winds. I could
be jibman when it pleased you, and rail
crew at other times."
"I demand concentration in the regattas.
You'd have to give up hunting."
"How could I hunt? When I sail, my face
will be sun reddened and ugly, my hands
will bruise, my arm muscles will enlarge
into unsightly lumps. A ruined huntress, I
fear. But the Trivector race — oh, I would
give up much — everything — to win aboard
the Terran Hope, I promise I would."
"I don't know. Why do you ask?"
"Because I'm a lonely man. I never mated
when I was in the starship service, be-
cause I would seldom have seen my mate
or offspring. I didn't mate when I retired,
because I met no woman who shared my
passion for the sea." He paused. "Can a
huntress understand thai a man might have
a passion for anything except— passion?"
"A huntress, of all people, knows that a
man's passion is but an inner room of his
heart. It must be approached by the right
avenue, and there are as many avenues
as there are men. Which is the fun of the
"I'll grant you all that. Roxanne, but we
are still talking about two different things.
Your hunt ends in a mutual passion for each
other. My yearnings have been toward a
mutual passion for the sea."
'And for each other." Roxanne insisted
"Yes, yes, of course," the captain agreed,
"but my nature is such that I cannot sep-
arate the two."
"I think the sea is such a mistress," said
Roxanne. "that she floods a man's heart
and must be included."
"I perceive clearly that she has flooded
your heart. Roxanne. I'm fairly well off," he
went on. "I won't pair with you, wily Rox-
anne. because you'd rob me and walk away.
But mating is a legal and permanent com-
mitment. You couldn't rob me without rob-
"I've never robbed anyone, Captain
'As if bewitchment wasn't robbery of a
man's senses and, afterward, of every-
thing else he possessed!"
"Now here's an odd proposal," Roxanne
retorted. "The man distrusts me and yet
would mate with me."
"I don't distrust your sailing. That's gen-
uine enough to make young Hewlish green
with envy. Nor do I distrust your ability to
keep a mate amused, if you kept your part
of the bargain."
"I've never broken faith, either."
"Perhaps you think I'm too old for mat-
ing, but I'm capable of it, never doubt!"
"Never for a second would I doubt," said
Roxanne. laying her hand on the captain's
sleeve. "I'm happy and honored to accept
your offer. You'll be a handsome mate and
a wonderful sire for our offspring."
"Lucky little bastards," said Captain
progress and prosperity forever,
aggression and greed
almost gone — ah, that was the rub
Eli Blair shuffled uneasily around the room,
hands thrust deep in his pockets. The wind
shrieked aboul the house like a hare under an
"Build in four dimensions?" Ihe angellike boy,
Zodiac, had chortled earlier thai day. "Easy. How
do you design a cube?"
"I wouldn't bother," said Eli, nonchalantly. "If il was
a perfect cube, I would just go ahead and make it."
"Don't get ahead of yourself." the boy cut in. "I
said 'design' for a reason. A cube is three dimen-
sions, which you can represent on a two-dimen-
sional surface . . ."
"You mean three dimensions on two, and tour on
three?" The old man scratched his head. "No, it
can't be as simple as that. . . ."
The boy looked at him unblinkingly. "You're not
going to tell me it's impossible, are you? Or that
somebody must have thought of it already?" He
shook his head, the golden hair catching the dying
autumn sun. "They all say that until someone else
patents the invention of a lifetime."
Eli looked sharply at the boy. then picked up a
sheet of paper, tearing and folding it to form a rough
cube. Twisting it this way and that, he smiled rue-
fully. "Paper's no good."
PAINTING BY MICHEL HENRICOT
The old man strode to the bookshelf and
returned with a glass paperweight. He
lipped it from hand to hand, and shook his
head. It told him nothing.
"Getting warmer. Eli," said the boy, en-
Eli glared, but inside he was warm with
admiration. "Why don't you tell me, you
"That wouldn't be so much tun." Zo-
diac's eyes sparkled. "I'll give you a clue."
he relented, closing his eyes and quoting:
Far from the edge of the land.
There lies a-shifting a place
In the deep's hand . . .
His guardian raised an eyebrow. "When
did you siart learning Zarradine?"
"Ages ago. Last week, I think."
"I'm surprised, But I suppose I shouldn't
be." Eli shrugged. "Anyway, that's an easy
clue," He turned to the window, to a tank
of water wherein there lay motionless a small
gray fish. A black dot of an eye swiveled
at his approach, and when the old man's
hands touched the glass the fish sprang
suddenly and ferociously into lite, its small,
needle fangs tapping sharply against the
glass. Eli carried the tank to the sink and,
in one swift movement, whipped off the
cover, emptied out the contents, and cov-
ered the sink with a glass sheet. He held
the tank over the dryer for a moment, and
when he turned back to the boy. there were
a few beads of sweat on his torehead. "I
swear he'll have me one day," he grinned,
"but I haven't the heart to have his glands
removed. Now," he said matter-of-factly,
"the third cube. What do I do with it?"
'A diagram," said Zodiac simply, "a four-
dimensional representation on a three-di-
Eli sighed quietly. He shouldn't allow
himself to be drawn in like this. He could
leach the boy howio behave, but academ-
ically . , . "No more games," he said firmly,
selecting a clay pencil from the desk drawer.
Zodiac folded his arms, refusing the
pencil. "You can't draw on the glass. It's a
surface, and a surface has only two di-
mensions. It's what's inside, the volume,
that is three-dimensional," He padded
lightly to the cupboard and returned with
thread and cutter.
For the next few minutes, the room was
silent save for the quiet hum of the cutter
and the occasional plop! from the sink. At
last. Zodiac stood back, satisfied.
Eli studied the result, more struck with
its artistic merits than any mathematical
significance. "It's clever, but Where's the
"It's not in there." said the boy. "That
wasn't the object of the exercise. This is
just a design, a blueprint."
Eli shook his head, sitting down heavily
"Well, I'm blowed! And is this what you've
been doing at school today?"
Zodiac looked away. "Well, no, not as an
assignment, not exactly."
"What do you mean, not exactly?" The
old man touched his ward on the shoul-
ders. "You haven't skipped school?"
"Nor cried the boy indignantly. "When
I said not exactly. I meant the others were
doing the industrial counterrevolution."
"I see. Now listen to me," said Eli, wag-
ging a gnarled finger. "I pay good pension
and guardianship money to send you to a
tree school, and you . . ."
"Hold on a minute, Eli," said Zodiac, his
voice belying his childish looks. "You said
you were sending me to the free school so
I could be an individual, like you, and so I
am. You can't deny that." He shrugged, "I
can learn the industrial counterrevolution
any time — I took a video of the lesson-
but this dimension problem is on my mind,
and it's now work. History is later work.
Don't worry, Eli, 1 won't let you down come
end-of-term exams. You know I won't."
"Okay, okay." Eli held up his hands. "I
don't need a lecture. I know it's not up to
me what you study, but it's just that I want
you to stick to what you start. Then you
won't end up like I did. a drifter for the first
few years of my maturity. I had a terrible
job sorting myself out."
"But you did in the end If I achieve as
much as you did, Eli, I'll be satisfied."
Eli winced melodramatically. "If you don't
achieve at least five times as much as 1
did, I'll take a stick to you." They both
laughed, not because they knew he never
would do such a thing, but because it was
an affirmation of confidence, and it made
them both happy.
They left the glass-and-thread blueprint
on the desk and sat down at the small ta-
ble, "I've a surprise for you," said Eli, open-
ing a drawer in front of him and taking out
a small package. He shoved it across to-
gether with the boy's two sachets.
"What is it?" asked Zodiac, tearing the
paper to expose a pinkish, pasty material.
"Pate!" Carefully, the boy dipped a lin-
ger into it and raised it to his mouth. His
eyes widened. "Real pate?" Most of it dis-
appeared down his throat in a second.
"Steady!" warned his guardian. "You
shouldn't have eaten all that. You know too
much fresh food will make you ill."
"I couldn't help it. It was delicious."
"Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't
suppose it'll hurt you — can't have been
more than ten grams."
Zodiac licked his fingers for the third time
time. "Can I give the rest to Willy?"
"Yes, but be careful. He prefers fingers."
The boy slid the glass cover on the sink
aside a fraction and dropped in the last
lump of pate. It didn't touch the water. The
fish gulped once and returned to the bot-
tom. Zodiac shuddered involuntarily, re-
placed the cover, and returned to the ta-
ble. "Why do you still keep him if he's so
dangerous? It's a rather one-sided rela-
tionship, isn't it?"
Eli leaned back in his chair. "Did I never
The boy sat down opposite him and
leaned torward eagerly.
The old man closed his eyes. "When I
was young, when there were still ships on
the sea, I worked in a freighter carrying
everything from fabrics to ore from Eng-
land to North America. On the ship as well
was a young, rough-edged Australasian,
called Aubrey Jones, and he and I be-
came the greatest of buddies. We had a
great time, the two of us. raising hell in the
ports with brawling and drinking, and
suchlike. We were tour days out of Liver-
pool when the war came, and we sat there
in mid-ocean, waiting, wondering. A week
passed, nothing on the radio, tood sup-
plies dwindling. You know your history. After
sixteen days and nights of torment, hall the
crew dead of tear, hunger, or suicide, we
heard it was over, so we sailed on to Bos-
ton. We survivors got blind drunk that night,
and I had quite a job getting us back to
the ship. Anyway, I did. and we loaded up
and headed for home.
"Well, you could feel the tension on the
ship all the way. Aubrey and I tossed all
the drink we could find over the side. There
was no skipper, just a weird, democratic,
vagabond crew, and how we ever made
Liverpool I still don't know to this day. But
we did. And the first thing we did was to
collect our pay and look for the nearest
bar. Well, as you know we shouldn't have
found one. because it was the New Way,
but we did, a little illegal tavern on a back
"It was the last night of the century. We
hadn't realized it until wed already downed
a few, and of course we were determined
to celebrate, if no one else did. But it mis-
fired, disastrously. Aubrey managed to get
into a light and killed a man. It cured me. -
because I left the ships and got a decent
job. And it cured Aubrey, too. because they
sent him to the moon.
"Forty years he got, and forty years he
served. He used to write to me regularly,
and a week after his release I heard he'd
been sent back to Australasia, to work for
the Fisheries Protection Board. After that
he didn't write to me so often. Inevitable, I
suppose, but we never lost contact alto-
gether. We always said we'd meet again,
but somehow we were always too busy.
Then in 51, 1 got a letter from his employ-
ers. He'd been badly mauled by a shark
while trying to save a girl from drowning.
There was a little note from him enclosed,
and I remember it word for word. It said:
Dear Trusted Friend Eli. I took on a shark
the other day, but my reflexes aren't what
they were when we were young. Only fight
I've ever lost, but it's the last. Never mind,
I've had a good run, and they tell me the
little girl's going to be all right, thank God.
I want you to have all my bits to do what
you like with. Please look after Willy tor me.
He's a mean bugger, but good company.
I'd swear he understands more than he lets
on. Can't write any more, old friend Take
care. So long. Aubrey." Eli sighed deeply.
"So, wondering who or what on Earth
Willy was. I took a weekend return fo Mel-
bourne and collected Aubrey's stuff— and
Willy. His landlady told me rather sharply:
Glad to see the back of the brute. Then
she melted and there were tears in her eyes.
He was a helluva man, Mr. Blair, she said.
an' a damn shame he's gone. She gave
me the written instructions Aubrey had
given her for when he was at sea. They
were very simple and typical of the sense
of humor that never left htm, not even while
he was in prison. They said: 'Willy eats
anything, 'specially fresh meat. Particu-
larly partial to humans. One bite is fatal —
to the human.'
"I seriously considered tipping dear Willy
straight into the nearest furnace but kept
thinking of Aubrey, so I relented and brought
the beast home. He never took his eyes
(ram me all the way. Customs was a bit
lunny. bul I called a friend in London and
he got me a license. It was only then I dis-
covered Willy's true identity. He was ex-
tremely rare and worth a small fortune. Au-
brey must have known that, and it was his
way of thanking me for sticking by him all
those years. I should have sold him there
and then, but once I'd turned down the first
offer, the next was easier. And the brute
looked at me all the time, at first sort of
suspicious, but then I swear it was a se-
cure look, knowing, somehow. I'll never
know how I came to grow fond of such a
creature, but I did."
Eli opened his eyes. "Eat your food," he
ordered quietly. Then he closed them again.
'Anyway, I've had Willy for ten years now,
and I reckon he'll outlive me. He's used to
my ways, and me his. I know what he likes —
sunshine, duck, hard-boiled eggs. I wouldn't
part with him now. I've got an antidote for
his poison, but I don't think I'll ever need
it. I've always been uliracareful. and so have
Zodiac split a sachet between finger and
thumb and poured the contents down his
throat. "Sometimes I wish." he said slowly.
"I was an Old Individual. I'd like to have
been a guardian, like you. Will you have
another ward when I'm dead?"
Eli frowned. "Don't talk like that. First of
all, the New Individual^. are the lulure, and
second, I don't like you talking about -your
own death. You're only eight months old
now. with another 20 to go. and it's not as
if your life seems any shorter than mine. . . ."
"I'm sorry," interrupted the boy. "I know
what you say is true. I'm not thinking of the
comparative lengths of our lives, just our
lifestyle. I'm enjoying my life, of course I
am. The New Way is better than the Old,
but in this changeover period I think the
guardians have a more satislying task than
Eli nodded slowly. "That may be so, but
the New Way is better, and that's all that
matters to any of us. There'll come a time
when I'm just a housekeeper to you — I
know, I've seen it four times already — a time
when you're so far ahead that I'll be the
child and you the adult. Give it a few more
months and you'll be happy with your side
of the bargain."
"Nonsense!" said Zodiac sharply, toss-
ing his golden hair. "You'll always be able
to teach me something. You have the mor-
als, the knowledge, and the honesty. I only
hope we'll be able to retain it when all the
guardians are gone."
"You will, boy, you will. Don't you worry.
It's more than ever a technological world,
but it's good technology. Benevolent tech-
nology. The New Way will inherit the best
of the Old — the wisdom, the intellect, the
induslriousness. Humanity will progress
and prosper forever, now that aggression
and greed have almost gone. If ironing oul
the horrors in man's nature means a shorter
lifespan, ihough a no less full one, so be
it. The New Way is good." Eli's eyes bored
into the boy's. "It's more than good. It's
beautiful, it's perfect." He glanced up at
the clock. "And now . . ."
"I know," sighed his ward, tor a moment
the child again. He dutifully rose and
cleared away the table. "Can I watch you
"No, I'm going to leave him there for to-
night. I don't want to spoil our blueprint-
perhaps we can talk about it again tomor-
row." He held out his hands, and Zodiac
took them. "Goodnight, young man. Sleep
When the boy had gone to his room, Eli
settled into a comfortable chair from where
he could see the moon through the trees
on the hill above the house. Clouds were
gathering, and a light breeze tugged at the
shutters. There would be a storm any min-
ute, Eli knew, for he had not lived in the
Cotswolds for ten years without knowing
the weather patterns like an old friend.
He felt tired. Every day was a long day
with Zodiac. The boy only needed three
hours' sleep now, and in a couple of months
he would need none. Before Eli was barely
asleep in his own bed, the boy would be
up and gone, tiptoeing out to 18 hours of
schooling. He was growing up fast, even
for a ward, and it was hard to believe it was
only seven months ago that Joseph Par-
sons, Secretary of the Fellowship of
Guardians, had brought him a one-month-
old, golden-haired child who could hardly
walk. Zodiac had cried because of Eli's
whiskers, and Eli shaved them off there and
then as a token of friendship. Two weeks
later the boy was beating him at simple
card games. Eli shrugged inwardly. Even
after five baby wards, he still found it dif-
ficult to come to terms with the incredible
development rate and speeding metabo-
lism of the new race. But he envied no man.
Most Old ones, now in retirement, living out
their lives in luxury in the cities, were al-
most oblivious to the New Way taking over.
Eli Blair had believed in it right from the
start, right from the very first New child,
and blessed the day when the aggressors
had obliterated themselves from the face
of the earth and left the rest of the world
to scramble every way of life until they came
up with the answer that was the New Way.
Humanity had dragged itself back from the
brink of oblivion and would never again pit
itself against itself, or against Nature. And
as soon as he was retired, Eli Blair devoted
his every waking hour to make it work. It
had to work, because now there were no
destroyers, only builders. And the New
children were the children of the builders.
There was no particular point during his
reverie that Eli Blair's thoughts became
dreams. He had Iqng been accustomed to
taking a half-hour nap before setting out
the boy's meager (to him) breakfast and
locking up the house, and he slipped eas-
ily into the light sleep of advancing years,
his feet stretched out, his hands loose in
But when he awoke he knew it was not
his mental alarm clock which had woken
htm. He looked out of the window — the
moon had scarcely moved, so he had been
asleep only a few minutes. What had dis-
turbed him. then? Everything was still, save
the rising wind, and he was on the verge
of drifting off when the disturbance reached
him again. This time he knew too well what
it was, and he lurched drunkenly out of the
chair as the third agonized yell from the
back of the house penetrated his brain. Eli
flung open the door to see the boy writhing
on the bed, clutching at his middle. His
staring eyes saw nothing, and the golden
hair was dark with sweat.
The old man threw a blanket over him
and fiercely punched out some numbers
on the bedside comm.
Immediately, there came a tinny voice:
"Blair. two-five-nine-zero-G. Ambu-
lance, my ward . . ."
"Nature of emergency?" asked the un-
emotional electronic voice.
"I think it's food poisoning."
"Oh, for . . ." Eli wiped the sweat from
his eyes. No use arguing. "Zodiac, seven-
"Wait please ."
The next four seconds seemed like four
hours. Then the voice again: "Landing
space — go. Availability— go. ETA two min-
utes. Blair, do not give anything to patient.
Keep patient warm. Keep calm. Confirm."
"Confirmed." Eli cursed the machine as
he dragged another blanket over the boy.
Keep calm, it said! He cursed the pate. He
cursed the peddler who had persuaded
him to buy ft He cursed himself for his stu-
pidity, and he soothed the boy's brow with
water from the tap by the bed.
The ambulance's siren blared from above
the roof, and Eli rushed to the back door
in time to see it settle gently in the yard,
the whine of the engines just audible above
the wind. Two figures jumped out, both
barely bigger than Zodiac, but broader
shouldered. They rushed where Eli di-
rected them, swept the boy up in a stretcher,
and were outside again before ten sec-
onds were past. One of them, a girl, gasped,
"Don't worry. Wait for our call," and the ma-
chine was gone, up and away like a mon-
strous flying egg, over the trees, to the
nearest hospital specializing in the medi-
cine of the New Way.
Eli closed the door quietly and sat down
in front of his desk comm. Now he had lime
for the self-recrimination that had been
building up since he had burst into Zo-
diac's room just a few minutes before. For
the next five minutes he set to the mental
task of taking himself to pieces, under-
standably but unnecessarily, and it was only
the shrill tone of the comm which pre-
vented him from driving himself insane.
He stabbed open the channel. "Yes!"
A calm, young voice came through, then
the screen cleared. Eli saw the face of a
boy, not unlike Zodiac, but older, perhaps
a year old. "Mr. Blair, I'm Dr. Rosko. Zodiac
is comfortable now, but I must tell you his
condition is very grave. Food poisoning is
confirmed. He ale some pate . . ."
Eli nodded slowly. "I know it was my fault,
I shouldn't have bought it."
"Please. Mr. Blair, there is absolutely no
blame attached to you. Zodiac is our sev-
enth case today, and the peddler con-
cerned has now been arrested. The pate
was accredited fit for consumption by
wards, but it seems the date had been
"Oh, no!" Eli almost reeled back from
the words. The old ways lingered on. You
never knew when you might come across
them, in a crowded street, in a back alley —
there were still fragments of the old self-
interest at large. Still people, ghastly night-
mares of the past, who could, would, put
personal gain before the well-being of the
race. Eli Blair remembered the old ways,
had been a part of them, but those 16 days
of cold, unimaginable fear adrift in the North
Atlantic had cured him for life It seemed
there were still those whom it had not. Eli
ached from the pain of it. "And Zodiac?"
he said, hearing himself almost pleading.
"Don't upset yourself, Mr. Blair. You must
be distressed, I know, but your ward will
receive the best possible care. We are doing
everything we can."
"I know. Thank you. Dr. Rosko. You will
let me know how he's doing?" Without
thinking, he added, desperately, "Is there
any chance of me seeing him, any chance
at all?" But he already knew the answer —
knew he could never enter a ward estab-
lishment of any kind, where things moved
30 times faster than he knew, where the
environment was as alien to him as the
South Pole — more so. For it was only in the
presence of the old ones, like himself, that
the wards slowed themselves down.
Amongst themselves they lived 30 times
as quickly and got 30 times as much done
in the same lime . . .
"I'm sorry, Mr. Blair, you know it's not
possible. You understand."
Eli took hold of himself. "Of course, Doc-
tor. I shouldn't have asked."
"You are distraught. I suggest you take
a sedative and go to bed. I will see to it
you are called if there's any change."
If there's any change. The words rang in
Eli's head when the Doctor had signed off.
He switched off the comm and stood up,
looking around the room as if it were un-
familiar to him.
The night seemed interminable. To oc-
cupy himself, Eli closed the shutters and
locked up the house, swept out the bed-
rooms, tidied his desk. And he was now
reduced to shuffling back and forth across
the cluttered room, listening to the shriek-
ing wind mingling with his waking night-
mare. Thoughts of the past clashed with
dread of the future. He tried to shut out the
picture of the smiling, golden-haired boy
who eagerly wolfed down the pate, but it
kept coming back. Guardianship might
seem the best job on earth, he thought bit-
terly, but here was the other side of the
coin. He had never been married, but now
for the first time he knew what it must have
been like for the thousands of women who
lost babies at the height of the industrial
counterrevolution, when medical services
ground to a hall for a whole year. How triv-
ial it had all seemed to him then. How he
now regretted the callousness of his youth.
All these memories seemed so real that he
hardly heard the comm shrilling.
Eli opened the channel carefully, half ex-
pecting . . .? But it was Dr. Rosko.
"Mr. Blair," he said quietly, and Eli knew.
He knew from the face. The New ones could
not hide their emotions.
"Mr. Blair, I'm sorry. Zodiac couldn't make
it. He died a few minutes ago. We did what
Eli nodded "I know that."
"Will you be all right?"
"I'll be all right, Doctor. I'll ring you to-
morrow about the arrangements."
When the doctor's grave face had gone
from the screen, Eli Blair felt as if he was
about to be torn apart. His rational nature
said the New Way was still the same. Things
happen. His emotions were in turmoil. He
staggered up out of his seat again, drained
of energy, and wandered aimlessly about
the room for a few minutes. Can I go through
it again? The question demanded imme-
diate answer. A two-year guardianship was
short and painful enough, despite the cal-
culated way it was cooled down toward the
end of a ward's life, and Eli Blair was old.
The New Way was perfect — he had said
that earlier, but was it perfect for him?
However the war had changed him, he
would be a part of the old way until the day
he died. Was it time to go now? Had enough
of human nature been instilled into the
frames of the New children yet? Could they
be trusted to breed on their own now and
not revert to the old ways? The New chil-
dren did not cry. They did not get angry.
Yet they loved with unbelievable strength
of will. Would this be enough to carry them
through to the promised future? Eli Blair
did not know. The New Way seemed to
crowd in on him, and he felt his age acutely.
His role was ever-diminishing, The ambu-
lance drivers, the doctor, the emergency
robot, all New. Every day. less Old, more
and more New. Eli knew one thing. He didn't
want to be the last. He didn't want to live
out the residue of his days like a dinosaur,
a living relic of the past that was hateful
and wasteful and best forgotten.
Half-blinded by the pain in his head, Eli
stumbled against the sink. There was no
hesitation in the hand that slid the glass
aside and fell slowly into the cool water. He
steeled himself, closing his eyes. A sec-
ond passed. "Go "on, you brute," he mut-
tered, "you've been waiting for this chance
for years." More seconds passed, but no
pain came. He opened his eyes and looked
down. Willy was listing slightly and had
turned toward the hand that intruded. The
small black eyes regarded Eli angrily, but
he did not move. Every few seconds, his
stout gray body twitched, and Eli suddenly
came to his senses. The pate! Willy, too,
had eaten the pate. And he was in agony,
dying. Eli yanked a yard of traveling cable
from its wall housing and turned on the
power. A quick jab at the surface of the
water was enough. Willy would suffer no
more. Eli Blair went and sat at his desk.
The brief episode with the fish affected
him deeply. Somehow it brought back the
world he had almost discarded in his grief.
He might laugh about the miracle later. But
now there was something to do. Dying was
too easy — killing Willy had made him re-
alize it. Dying was not the New Way,
A few taps on the keyboard brought a
face on the screen An Old face Joseph
Parsons had not changed in seven months.
"Hello, Eli," he said. "I've been waiting for
you to call. The registrar at the hospital
called me a while ago. You know how sorry
Eli was lost for words for a moment. Then
he said: "Thank you, Joseph. Look, I know
this will sound harsh, but . . ."
"Eli. don't torture yourself. Go to bed, and
I'll be round with the papers tomorrow
Eli Blair couldn't stop the wry smile. "You
knew I'd call you, didn't you?"
Joseph nodded wisely. "Of course I did.
Once you've been a guardian, you can't
shake it off. You've been a guardian five
times. You ought to know by now . . ."
"Yes," sighed Eli, "I suppose I ought."
A beautiful, touching story, and at the same
time earthy enough — think of the corrupt
peddler tampering with an expiration date —
and pate at that. But one must be careful
in considering science fiction, careful not
to substitute happy imaginings for the con-
cern demanded by most-probable-case
Is offering an optimistic, Utopian story
such as this perhaps too dangerously pal-
liative? Is it possible that mankind can sur-
vive the next all-out war? Writers other than
Holkham have imagined not—remember
Dr. Strangelove and On the Beach. And if
survival is possible, won't conditions be a
lot more likely to duplicate those in Robert
Silverberg's "The Palace at Midnight" (see
page 56), where post-catastrophe society
is Balkanized, blighted, and boring?
However, a truly positive thought is en-
gendered by Holkham's piece: If only
mankind could radically change without first
going to the brink of destruction or expe-
riencing some horror such as Holkham's
"industrial counterrevolution." Given the
grim time we live in, the tact that we can
speculate about such a bright future through
the medium of stones like "New Is Beau-
tiful" is one of the grand attributes of the
science-fiction form — grander still if we
would act in the spirit of Holkham's vision.
asileus," the story that follows,
was written especially for this volume . . . and in short order at that.
Contacted at summer's end in California, where he was engrossed with
the writing of a novel, Silverberg had "Basileus" in Omni's New York
office by early fall. For such a prodigious writer (hundreds of stories and
books) it is to be expected that he could work quickly and on several
things at once, but what has long been equally astounding about the
Silverberg method is the quality of writing that results — the scope of its
imagination, the richness of its detail.
The reader will no doubt be amazed at the extent of the arcane
knowledge concerning heavenly hosts. It is not a knowledge Silverberg
acquired quickly to fulfill a writing commission. Rather, he says, he has
long been fascinated with esoteric subjects and even has written schol-
arly volumes on medieval lore. That he combines this interest with a
very timely concern about Armageddon makes for fascinating, fright-
ening science fiction.
"The Soul Painter and the Shapeshifter," reprinted from Omni, is a
charming romance of another time and place. It involves two disparate
beings who, notwithstanding their altogether awesome capabilities, are
quite human in their needs, desires, sensibilities and frailties. The plot
moves effortlessly and suspensefully, reminding us along the way that
beauty is subjective, all-conquering, and the companion of love.
One of Silverberg's bleaker visions prevails in "The Palace at Mid-
night" a story set in California some years after a collapse of civilization.
More specifically, it takes place in the Empire of San Francisco, for the
United States is no longer an intact nation but a hodgepodge of tiny
city-states, many of which are ruled by petty despots. Against this grim
backdrop, the author adeptly stages an interlude of developing friend-
ship between a man and a woman, which affords the reader a deepfelt
awareness of the human condition amid widespread devastation and
decadence. As the hero remarks, "Poor everybody."
nd John the Bapti
PAINTING BY ROWENA MORRILL
In the shimmering lemon-yellow Octo-
ber light, Cunningham touches the keys of
his terminal and summons angels. An in-
stant to load the program, an instant to bring
the file up. and there they are, ready to
spout from the screen at his command:
Apollyon, Anauel, Uriel, and all the rest.
Uriel is the angel of thunder and terror;
Apollyon is the Destroyer, the angel of the
bottomless pit; Anauel is the angel of
bankers and commission brokers. Cun-
ningham is fascinated by the multifarious
duties and tasks, both exalted and hum-
ble, that are assigned to the angels. "Every
visible thing in the world is put under the
charge of an angel." said St. Augustine in
The Eight Questions.
Cunningham has 1.114 angels in his
computer now. He adds a few more each
night, though he knows that he has a long
way to go before he has them all. In the
fourteenth century the number of angels
was reckoned by the Kabbalists. with some
precision, at 301.655,722. Albertus Mag-
nus had earlier calculated that each choir
of angels held 6.666 legions, and each le-
gion 6.666 angels; even without knowing
the number of choirs, one can see that that
produces rather a higher total. And in the
Talmud, Rabbi Jochanan proposed that
new angels are born "with every utterance
that goes forth from the mouth of the Holy
One. blessed be He."
If Rabbi Jochanan is correct, the num-
ber of angels is infinite. Cunningham's per-
sonal computer, though it has extraordi-
nary add-on memory capacity and is
capable, if he chooses, of tapping into the
huge mainframe machines of the Defense
Department, has no very practical way of
handling an infinity. But he is doing his best.
To have 1,114 angels on line already, after
only eight months of part-time program-
ming, is no small achievement.
One of his favorites of the moment is
Harahel, the angel of archives, libraries,
and rare cabinets. Cunningham has des-
ignated Harahel also the angel of com-
puters; it seems appropriate. He invokes
Harahel often, to discuss the evolving
niceties of data processing with him. But
he has many other favorites, and his tastes
run somewhat to the sinister: Azrael. the
angel of death, for example, and Arioch.
the angel of vengeance, and Zebuleon. one
of the nine angels who will govern at the
end of the world. It is Cunningham's job.
from eight to four every working day, to
devise programs for the interception of in-
coming Soviet nuclear warheads, and that,
perhaps, has inclined him toward the more
apocalyptic members of the angelic host.
He invokes Harahel now. He has bad
news for him. The invocation that he uses
is a standard one that he found in Arthur
Edward Waite's The Lemegeton, or The
Lesser Key of Solomon, and he has dedi-
cated one of his function keys to its text,
so that a single keystroke suffices to load
it. "I do invocate. conjure, and command
thee, thou Spirit N. to appear and to show
thyself visibly unto me before this Circle in
fair and comely shape," is fhe way it be-
gins, and it proceeds to utilize various se-
cret and potent names of God in the sum-
moning of Spirit N— such names as
Zabaolh and Ellon and. of course. Adonai —
and it concludes, "I do potently exorcise
thee that thou appearesf here to fulfill my
will in all things which seem good unto me.
Wherefore, come thou, visibly, peaceably,
and affably, now, without delay, to manifest
that which I desire, speaking with a clear
and perfect voice, intelligibly, and to mine
understanding." All that takes but a micro-
second, and another moment to read in the
name of Harahel as Spirit H, and there the
angel is on the screen.
"I am here at your summons," he an-
Cunningham works with his angels from
five to seven every evening Then he has
dinner. He lives alone, in a neat little flat a
few blocks west of the Bayshore Freeway
and does not spend much of his time so-
cializing. He thinks of himself as a pleasant
man. a sociable man, and he may very well
be right about that, but the pattern of his
life has been a solitary one. He is thirty-
seven years old, five feet eleven, with red
hair, pale blue eyes, and a light dusting of
freckles on his cheeks. He did his under-
graduate work at Cal Tech, his postgrad-
uate studies at Stanford, and for the last
nine years he has been involved in ultra-
sensitive military-compuler projects in
northern California. He has never married.
Sometimes he works with his angels again
after dinner, from eight to ten, but hardly
ever any later than that. At ten he goes to
bed. He is a very methodical person.
He has given Harahel the physical form
of his own first computer, a little Radio Shack
TRS-80, with wings flanking the screen He
had though! originally to make the ap-
pearance of his angels more abstract —
showing Harahel as a sheaf of kilobyles.
for example— but like many of Cunning-
hams best and most austere ideas, it had
turned out impractical in the execution,
since abstract concepts did not translate
well into graphics for him.
"I want to notify you," Cunningham says,
"of a shift in jurisdiction." He speaks Eng-
lish with his angels. He has it on good,
though apocryphal, authority that the pri-
mary language of the angels is Hebrew,
but his computer's audio algorithms have
no Hebrew capacity, nor does Cun-
ningham. But they speak English readily
enough with him: they have no choice.
"From now on." Cunningham tells Harahel.
"your domain is limited to hardware only."
Angry green lines rapidly cross and re-
cross Harahel's screen. "By whose au-
thority do you — "
"It isn't a question of authority." Cun-
ningham replies smoothly. "It's a question
of precision. I've just read Vretil into the
data base, and I have to code his func-
tions. He's the recording angel, after all.
So, to some degree then he overlaps your
"Ah." says Harahel, sounding melan-
choly. "I was hoping you wouldn't bother
"How can I overlook such an important
angel? 'Scribe of the knowledge of the Most
High,' according to the Book of Enoch.
Keeper of the heavenly books and rec-
ords ' Quicker in wisdom than the other
"If he's so quick, says Harahel sullenly,
"give him the hardware. That's what gov-
erns the response lime, you know."
"I understand. But he maintains the lists.
That's data base."
"And where does the data base live? The
"Listen, this isn't easy for me," Cun-
ningham says. "But I have to be fair. I know
you'll agree that some division of respon-
sibilities is in order. And I'm giving him all
data bases and related software. You keep
"Screens. Terminals, CPUs. Big deal."
"But without you, he's nothing, Harahel.
Anyway, you've always been in charge of
cabinets, haven't you?"
"And archives and libraries," the angel
says. "Don't forget that."
"I'm not. But what's a library? Is it the
books and shelves and stacks, or the words
on the pages? We have to distinguish the
container from the thing contained."
'A grammarian," Harahel sighs. "A hair-
splitter. A casuist,"
"Look. Vretil wants the hardware, too. But
he's willing lo compromise. Are you?"
"You start to sound less and less like our
programmer and more and more like the
Almighty every day," says Harahel.'
"Don't blaspheme." Cunningham tells
him. "Please Is it agreed? Hardware only?"
"You win," says the angel. "But you al-
ways do. naturally."
Naturally. Cunningham is the one with
his hands on the keyboard, controlling
things. The angels, though (hey are elo-
quent enough and have distinct and pas-
sionate personalities, are mere magnetic
impulses deep within. In any contest with
Cunningham they don't stand a chance.
Cunningham, though he tries always lo play
the game by the rules, knows that, and so
It makes him uncomfortable to think about
it, but the role he plays is definitely godlike
in all essential ways. He puts the angels
into the computer; he gives them their tasks,
their personalities, and their physical ap-
pearances; he summons them or leaves
them uncalled, as he wishes.
A godlike role. yes. But Cunningham re-
sists confronting that notion He does not
believe he is trying to be God: he does not
even want to Ihink about God. His lamily
had been on comfortable terms with God-
Uncle Tim was a priest, there was an arch-
bishop somewhere back a few genera-
tions, his parents and sisters moved cozily
within the divine presence as within a warm
bath — but he himself, unable to quantify
the Godhead, prelerred lo sidestep any
though! of it There were other, more im-
mediate matters to engage his concern.
His mother had wanted him to go into the
priesthood, of all things, but Cunningham
had averted that by demonstrating so vis-
ible and virtuosic a skill at mathematics that
even she could see he was destined for
science. Then she had prayed for a Nobel
Prize in physics for him; but he had pre-
ferred computer technology. "Well," she
said, "a Nobel in computers. I ask the Vir-
"There's no Nobel in computers, Mom,"
he told her. Bui he suspects she still offers
novenas for it.
The angel project had begun as a lark,
but had escalated swiftly into an obses-
sion. He was reading Gustav Davidson's
old Dictionary oi Angels, and when he came
upon the description of the angel Adra-
melech, who had rebelled with Salan and
had been cast from heaven, Cunningham
thought it might be amusing to build a
computer simulation and lalk with him.
Davidson said that Adramelech was
sometimes shown as a winged and bearded
lion, and sometimes as a mule with feath-
ers, and sometimes as a peacock, and that
one poet had described him as "the en-
emy of God. greater in malice, guile, am-
bition, and mischief than Satan, a fiend more
curst, a deeper hypocrite." That was ap-
pealing. Well, why not build him? The
graphics were easy — Cunningham chose
the winged-lion form — but getting the per-
sonality constructed involved a month of
intense labor and some consultations with
the artificial-intelligence people over at
Kestrel Institute. But linally Adramelech was
on line, suave and diabolical, talking ami-
ably of his days as an Assyrian god and
his conversations with Beelzebub, who had
named him Chancellor ol the Order of the
Fly (Grand Cross),
Next. Cunningham did Asmodeus, an-
other fallen angel, said to be the inventor
of dancing, gambling, music, drama.
French fashions, and other frivolities. Cun-
ningham made him look like a very dash-
ing Beverly Hills Iranian, with a pair ol tiny
wings at his collar. It was Asmodeus who
suggested that Cunningham continue the
project; so he brought Gabriel and Ra-
phael on line to provide some balance be-
tween good and evil, and then Forcas. the
angel who renders people invisible, re-
stores lost property, and teaches logic and
rhetoric in Hell: and by that lime Cun-
ningham was hooked.
He surrounded himself with arcane lore:
M.R. James's editions ol Ihe Apocrypha,
Waite's Book of Ceremonial Magic and Holy
Kabbalah. Ihe Mystical Theology and Ce-
lestial Hierarchies of Dionysius the Areop-
agite, and dozens of related works that he
called up from the Stanford data base in a
kind of manic fervor. As he codified his
systems, he became able to put in live,
eight, a dozen angels a night: one June
evening, staying up well past his usual time,
he managed thirty-seven. As the popula-
tion grew, it took on weight and substance,
for one angel cross-filed another, and they
behaved now as though they held long
conversations with one another even when
Cunningham was occupied elsewhere.
The question of actual belief in angels,
like that of belief in God Himself, never arose
in him. His projeci was purely a lechnical
challenge, nol a theological exploration.
Once, at lunch, he told a co-worker what
he was doing, and got a chilly blank stare,
'Angels? Angels? Flying around with big
flapping wings, passing miracles? You
aren't seriously telling me lhal you believe
in angels, are you, Dan?"
To which Cunningham replied, "You don't
have to believe in angels to make use of
them. I'm not always sure I believe in elec-
trons and protons. I know I've never seen
any. But I make use of them."
And what use do you make of angels?"
But Cunningham had lost interest in the
He divides his evenings between calling
up his angels for conversations and pro-
gramming additional ones into his pan-
theon. That requires continuous intensive
research, for the literature of angels is ex-
traordinarily large, and he is thorough in
everything he does. The research is lime-
consuming, for he wants his angels lo meet
every scholarly test of authenticity. He pores
constantly over such works as Ginzberg's
seven-volume Legends of the Jews. Clem-
ent of Alexandria's Prophetic Eclogues,
Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine.
It is the early part ot the evening. He
brings up Hagilh. ruler of the planet Venus
and commander of 4.000 legions ol spirits,
and asks him details of the transmutation
of metals, which is Hagith's specialty. He
summons Hadraniel. who m Kabbalistic lore
is a porter at ihe second gate of Heaven,
and whose voice, when he proclaims the
will of the Lord, penetrates through 200.000
universes: he questions the angel about
his meeting with Moses, who uliered ihe
Supreme Name at him and made him
Iremble. And then Cunningham sends lor
Israfel ihe four-winged, whose feet are un-
der the seventh earth, and whose head
reaches to the pillars of the divine throne.
It will be Israfel's task to blow the trumpet
that annouces the arrival of the Day of
Judgment. Cunningham asks him to lake
a few trial riffs now— "just for practice," he
says, but Israfel declines, saying he can-
not touch his instrument until he receives
the signal, and the command sequence for
that, says the angel, is nowhere to be found
in the software Cunningham has thus far
When he wearies of talking with Ihe an-
gels, Cunningham begins the evening's
programming. By now the algorithms are
second nature and he can enter angels
into Ihe computer In a mailer of minules.
once he has done the research, This eve-
ning he inserts nine more, Then he opens
a beer, sits back, and lets Ihe day wind
down lo its close.
He thinks he understands why he has
become so intensely involved with this en-
terprise. It is because he must contend each
day in his daily work with matters of terri-
fying apocalyptic import: nothing less, in-
deed, than the impending destruction of
the world. Cunningham works routinely with
megadeath simulation. For six hours a day
he sets up hypothetical situations in which
Country A goes into alert mode, expecting
an attack from Country B. which thereupon
begins to suspect a preemptive strike and
commences a defensive response, which
leads Country A to escalate its own readi-
ness, and so on until the bombs are in the
air. He is aware, as are many thoughtful
people both in Country A and Country B.
that the possibility of computer-generated
misinformation leading to a nuclear holo-
caust increases each year, as the time-
window for correcting a malfunction dimin-
ishes, Cunningham also knows something
that very few others do. or perhaps no one
else at all: that it is now possible to send a
signal to the giant computers — to Theirs
or Ours, it makes no difference — that will
be indistinguishable from the impulses that
an actual flight of airborne warhead-bear-
ing missiles would generate. It such a sig-
nal is permitted to enter the system, a min-
imum of eleven minutes, at the present time,
will be needed to carry out fail-safe deter-
mination of its authenticity. That, at the
present time, is too long to wait to decide
whether the incoming missiles are real: a
much swifter response is required.
Cunningham, when he designed his
missile-simulating signal, thought al once
of erasing his work. But he could not bring
himself to do that: the program was too
elegant, too perfect. On the other hand, he
was afraid to tell anyone about it, tor fear
that it would be taken beyond his level of
classification at once, and sealed away from
him. He does not want that, for he dreams
of finding an antidote for it, some sort of
resonating inquiry mode that will distin-
guish all true alarms from false. When he
has it. if he ever does, he will present both
modes, in a single package, to Defense.
Meanwhile, he bears the burden of sup-
pressing a concept ot overwhelming stra
legic importance. He has never done any
thing like that before. And he does not
delude himself into thinking his mind is
unique: if he could devise something like
this, someone else probably could do it
also, perhaps someone on the other side.
True, it is a useless, suicidal program. But
it would not be the first suicidal program
to be devised in the interests of military
He knows he must take his simulator to
his superiors before much more time goes
by. And under the strain of that knowledge,
he is beginning to show distinct signs of
erosion. He mingles less and less with other
people; he has unpleasant dreams and
occasional periods of insomnia; he has lost
his appetite and looks gaunt and haggard.
The angel project is his only useful diver-
sion, his chief distraction, his one avenue
For all his scrupulous scholarship Cun-
ningham has nol hesitated to invent a few
angels of his own. Uraniel is one of his: the
angel of radioactive decay, with a face of
whirling electron-shells. And he has coined
Dimitrion, too: the angel of Russian litera-
ture, whose wings are sleighs and whose
head is a snow-covered samovar. Cun-
ningham feels no guilt over such whimsies.
It is his computer, after all, and his pro-
gram. And he knows he is not the first to
concoct angels. Blake engendered pla-
toons of them in his poems: Urizen and
Ore and Enitharmon and more. Milton, he
suspects, populaled Paradise Lost with
dozens of sprites of his own invention,
Gurdjieff and Alaslair Crowley and even
Pope Gregory the Great had their turns al
amplifying the angelic roster: why then not
also Dan Cunningham of Palo Alto. Cali-
fornia? So from time to lime he works one
up on his own His most recent is the dread
high lord Basileus. to whom Cunningham
has given the title of Emperor of the An-
gels. Basileus is still incomplete; Cun-
ningham has not arrived at his physical ap-
pearance, nor his specific functions, other
than to make him the chief administrator of
the angelic horde. But there is something
unsatisfactory about imagining a new
archangel, when Gabriel, Raphael, and
Michael already constitute the high com-
mand. Basileus needs more work. Cun-
ningham puts him aside, and begins to key
in Duma, the angel of silence and of Ihe
stillness of death, thousand-eyed, armed
with a fiery rod. His style in angels is get-
ting darker and darker.
On a misty, rainy night in fate October, a
woman fromSan Francisco whom he knows
in a distant, occasional way phones to in-
vite him to a party. Her name is Joanna;
she is in her mid-thirties, a biologist work-
ing for one of the little gene-splicing outfits
in Berkeley; Cunningham had had a brief
and vague affair with her five or six years
back, when she was at Stanford, and since
then they have kept fitfully in touch, with
long intervals elapsing between meetings.
He has not seen her or heard from her in
over a year. "It's going to be an interesting
bunch," she tells him. "A futurologist from
New York, Thomson the sociobiology man,
a couple of video poets, and someone from
the chimpanzee-language outfit, and I for-
get the rest, but they all sounded first rate."
Cunningham hates parties. They bore
and jangle him. No matter how firsl rate the
people are, he thinks, real interchange of
ideas is impossible in a large random group,
and the best one can hope for is some
pleasant low-level chatter. He would rather
be alone with his angels than waste an
evening that way.
On the other hand, it has been so long
since he has done anything of a social na-
ture that he has trouble remembering what
the last gathering was. As he had been
telling himself all his life, he needs to get
out more often. He likes Joanna and it's
about time they got together, he thinks, and
he fears that if he turns her down, she may
not call again for years, And the gentle pat-
ter of the rain, coming on this mild evening
after the long dry months of summer, has
left him feeling uncharacteristically re-
laxed, open, accessible.
"All right," he says. "I'll be glad to go."
The party is in San Mateo on Saturday
night. He takes down the address. They
arrange to meet there. Perhaps she'll come
home with him afterward, he thinks: San
Mateo is only fifteen minutes from his house,
and she'll have a much longer drive back
up to San Francisco. The thought surprises
him. He had supposed he had lost all in-
terest in her that way; he had supposed he
had lost all interest in anyone that way, as
a matter of fact,
Three days before the parly, he decides
to call Joanna and cancel. The idea of mill-
ing aboul in a roomful of strangers appalls
him. He can't imagine, now, why he ever
agreed to go. Belter to stay home alone
and pass a long rainy night designing an-
gels and conversing with Uriel. Ithuriel. Ra-
But as he goes toward the telephone,
that renewed hunger for solitude vanishes
as swiftly as it came. He does want to go
to the party. He does want to see Joanna;
very much, indeed. It startles him to realize
that he positively yearns for some change
in his rigid routine, some escape from his
lillle apartment, ils elaborate computer
hookup, even its angels.
Cunningham imagines himself at the
party, in some brightly lit room in a hand-
some redwood-and-glass house perched
in the hills above San Mateo. He stands
with his back to the vast sparkling wrap-
around window, a drink in his hand, and
tie is holding forth, dominaling the con-
versation, sharing his rich slock ol angel
lore with a fascinated audience.
"Yes. 300 million of them." he is saying,
"and each with his fixed function. Angels
don't have tree will, you know. Us Church
doctrine that they're created with if. buf al
the moment of their birth, they're given the
choice of opting for God or againsl Him.
and the choice is irrevocable. Once they've
made it. they're unalterably fixed, for good
or for evil. Oh, and angels are born circum-
cised, too. At least the Angels of Sanctifi-
cation and the Angels of Glory are. and
maybe the seventy Angels of the Presence."
"Does that mean that all angels are
male?" asks a slender dark-haired woman.
"Strictly speaking, they're bodiless and
therefore without sex." Cunningham tells
her. "But in fact, the religions that believe
in angels are mainly patriarchal ones, and
when the angels are visuali2ed. they tend
to be portrayed as men. Although some of
them, apparently, can change sex at will.
Milton tells us lhat in Paradise Lost: 'Spirits
when they please can either sex assume.
or both: so soft and uncompounded is their
essence pure.' And some angels seem to
be envisioned as female in the first place.
There's the Shekinah. for instance, 'the bride
of God.' ihe manifestation ol His glory in-
dwelling in human beings. There's Sophia,
the angel of wisdom. And Lilith. Adams
first wife, the demon of lust — "
'Are demons considered angels, then?"
a tall professorial-looking man wants to
"Of course. They're the angels who opted
away from God. 8u1 they're angels never-
theless, even if we mortals perceive their
aspects as demonic or diabolical."
He goes on and on. They all listen as
though he is God's own messenger, He
speaks of the hierarchies of angels— the
seraphim, cherubim, thrones, domina-
tions, principalities, powers, virtues, arch-
angels and angels— and he tells them of
the various lists of Ihe seven great angels,
which differ so greatly once one gets be-
yond Michael. Gabriel, and Raphael, and
he speaks ol Ihe 90.000 angels of destruc-
tion and the 300 angels of light he con-
jures up the seven angels with seven trum-
pets from Ihe Book of Revelation, he tells
them which angels rule the seven days of
the week and which the hours of the days
and nights, he pours forth the wondrous
angelic names, Zadkiel, Hashmal. Or-
phaniel. Jehudiel. Phaleg. Zagzagel. There
is no end to it. He is in his glory. He is a
fount of arcana. Then, Ihe manic mood
passes. He is alone in his room: there is
no eager audience. Once again he thinks
he will skip the party. No. No He will go.
He wants to see Joanna.
He goes to his terminal and calls up two
final angels before bedtime: Leviathan and
Behemoth. Behemoth is the great hippo-
potamus-angel, the vast beast of dark-
ness, the angel of chaos. Leviathan is his
mate, the mighty she-whale, the splendid
sea serpent. They dance for him on the
screen. Behemoth's huge mouth yawns
wide. Leviathan gapes even more awe-
somely. "We are getting hungry." they tell
him. "When is feeding time?" In rabbinical
lore, these two will swallow all the damned
souls at the end of days. Cunningham
tosses them some electronic sardines and
sends them away. As he closes his eyes
he invokes Poleh. the angel of oblivion, and
falls into a black dreamless sleep.
"Of course I'm listening to you, Harriet. You said you were a Martian.
Al his desk (he next morning, he is at
work on a standard item, a glitch-clearing
program for the third-quadrant surveil-
lance satellites, when he finds himself un-
accountably trembling. That has never
happened to him before. His fingernails look
almost white, his wrists are rigid, his hands
are quivering. He feels chilled. It is as
though he has not slept for days. In the
washroom he clings to the sink and stares
at his pallid, sweaty face. Someone comes
up behind him and says, "You all right,
"Yeah. Just a little attack of the damn
"All that wild living in the middle of the
week wears a man down," the other says,
and moves along. The social necessities
have been observed: a question, a non-
committal answer, a quip, goodbye He
could have been having a stroke here and
they would have played it the same way.
Cunningham has no close friends at the"
office. He knows that they regard him as
eccentric — eccentric in the wrong way not
lively and quirky but just a peculiar kind of
hermit — and getting worse all the time. I
could destroy the world, he thinks. I could
go into the Big Room and type for fifteen
seconds, and wed be on all-out alert a
minute later and the bombs would be com-
ing down from orbit six minutes later. I could
give that signal. I could really do it. I could
do it right now.
Waves of nausea sweep him and he grips
the edge of the sink until the last racking
spasm is over. Then he cleans his face and,
calmer now, returns to his desk to stare at
the little green symbols on the screen.
That evening, still trying to find a func-
tion for Basileus, Cunningham discovers
himself thinking of demons, and of one de-
mon not in the classical demonology —
Maxwell's Demon, the one that the physi-
cist James Clerk Maxwell postulated to
send fast-moving molecules in one direc-
tion and slow ones in another, thereby pro-
viding an ultra-efficient method for heating
and refrigeration. Perhaps some sort of fil-
tering role could be devised for Basileus.
Last week a few of the loftier angels had
been complaining about the proximity to
them of certain fallen angels within the
computer. "There's a smell of brimstone on
this disk that I don't like," Gabriel had said.
Cunningham wonders if he could make
Basileus a kind of traffic manager within
the program: let him sit in there and ship
the celestial angels into one sector of a
disk, the fallen ones to another.
The idea appeals to him for about thirty
seconds. Then he sees how fundamentally
trivial it is. He doesn't need an angel for a
job like that; a little simple software could
do it. Cunningham's corollary to Kant's
categorical imperative: Never use an an-
gel as mere software. He smiles, possibly
for the first time all week. Why, he doesn't
even need software. He can handle it him-
self, simply by assigning princes of Heaven
to one file and demons to a different one.
It- hadn't seemed necessary to segregate
his angels that way, or he would have done
it from the start. But since now they were
He begins to flange up a sorting pro-
gram to separate the files. It should have
taken him a few minutes, but he finds him-
self working in a rambling, muddled way,
doing an untypically sloppy job. With a
quick swipe, he erases what he has done.
Gabriel would have to put up with the reek
of brimstone a little longer, he thinks.
There is a dull throbbing pain just be-
hind his eyes. His throat is dry, his lips feel
parched. Basileus would have to wait a lit-
tle longer, too. Cunningham keys up an-
other angel, allowing his fingers to choose
for him, and finds himself looking at a blank-
faced angel with a gleaming metal skin.
One of the early ones, Cunningham real-
izes. "I don't remember your name," he
says. "Who are you?"
"I am Anaphaxeton,"
'And your function?"
"When my name is pronounced aloud, I
will cause the angels to summon the entire
universe Before the bar of justice on Judg-
"Oh, Jesus," Cunningham says. "I don't
want you tonight."
He sends Anaphaxeton away and finds
himself with the dark angel Apollyon, fish-
scales, dragon-wings, bear-feet, breath-
ing fire and smoke, holding the key to the
Abyss. "No." Cunningham says, and brings
up Michael, standing with drawn sword over
Jerusalem, and sends him away only to
find on the screen an angel with 70.000
feet and 4,000 wings, who is Azrael, the
angel of death. "No," says Cunningham
again. "Not you. Oh. Christ!" A vengeful
army crowds his computer. On his screen
there passes a flurrying regiment of wings
and eyes and beaks. He shivers and shuts
the system down for the night. Jesus, he
thinks. Jesus. Jesus, Jesus. All night long,
suns explode in his brain.
On Friday his supervisor, Ned Harris,
saunters to his desk in an unusually folksy
way and asks if he's going to be doing
anything interesting this weekend. Cun-
ningham shrugs. 'A party Saturday night,
that's about all. Why?"
"Thought you might be going off on a
fishing trip, or something. Looks like the
last nice weekend before the rainy season
sets in, wouldn't you say?"
"I'm not a fisherman, Ned,"
"Take some kind of trip. Drive down to
Monterey, maybe. Or up into the wine
"What are you getting at?"
"You look like you could use a little
change of pace." Harris says amiably, 'A
couple of days off. You've been crunching
numbers so hard, they're starting to crunch
you, is my guess."
"It's that obvious?"
Harris nods. "You're tired. Dan. It shows.
We're a little like air traffic controllers around
here, you know, working so hard we start
to drearn about blips on the screen. That's
no good. Get the hell out of town, fellow.
The Defense Department can operate
without you for a while. Okay? Take Mon-
day off. Tuesday, even. I can't afford to have
a fine mind like yours going goofy from
"All right, Ned. Sure. Thanks."
His hands are shaking again. His fin-
gernails are colorless.
'And get a good early start on the week-
end, loo. No need for you to hang around
here today until four."
"If that's okay — "
"Go on. Shoo!"
Cunningham closes down his desk and
makes his way uncertainly out of the build-
ing. The security guards wave at him.
Everyone seems to know he's being sent
home early. Is this what it's like to crack up
on the job? He wanders about the parking
lot for a little while, not sure where he has
left his car. At last he finds it, and drives
home at thirty miles an hour, with horns
honking at him all the way as he wanders
up the freeway.
He settles wearily in front of his com-
puter and brings the system on line, calling
for Harahel. Surely the angel of computers
will not plague him with such apocalyptic
Harahel says. "Well, we've worked out
your Basileus problem for you."
"Uriel had the basic idea, building on
your Maxwell's Demon notion. Israfel and
Azrael developed it some. What's needed
is an angel embodying God's justice and
God's mercy. A kind of evaluator, a iiltering
angel. He weighs deeds in Ihe balance.
and arrives at a verdict."
"What's new about that?" Cunningham
asks. "Something like that's built into every
mythology from Sumer and Egypt on.
There's always a mechanism for evaluat-
ing the souls of the dead — this one goes
to Paradise, this one goes to Hell—"
"Wait," Harahel says. "I wasn't finished.
I'm not talking about the evaluation of in-
"Worlds," the angel replies. "Basileus will
be ihe judge of worlds. He holds an entire
planet up to scrutiny and decides whether
it's time to call for the last trump."
"Part of the machinery of Judgment, you
"Exactly. He's the one who presents the
evidence to God and helps Him make His
decision. And then he's the one who tells
Israfel to blow the trumpet, and he's the
one who calls out the name of Anaphax-
eton to bring everyone before the bar. He's
the prime apocalyptic angel, the destroyer
of worlds. And we thought you might make
him look like — "
'Ah," Cunningham says. "Not now. Let's
talk about that some other time."
He shuts the system down, pours him-
self a drink, sits staring out the window at
the big eucalyptus tree in the front yard.
After a while it begins to rain. Not such a
good weekend for a drive into the country
after all, he thinks. He does not turn the
computer on again that evening.
Despite everything, Cunningham goes
to the party. Joanna is not there. She has
phoned to cancel, late Saturday after-
noon, pleading a bad cold. He detects no
sound of a cold in her voice, but perhaps
she is telling the truth. Or possibly she has
found something better to do on Saturday
night. But he is already geared for party-
going, and he is so tired, so eroded, that
it is more effort to change his internal pro-
gram than it is to follow through on the orig-
inal schedule. So about eight that evening
he drives up to San Mateo, through a light
The party turns out not to be in the glam-
orous hills west of town, but in a small
cramped condominium, close to the heart
of the city, furnished with what looks like
somebody's college-era chairs and
couches and bookshelves. A cheap stereo
is playing the pop music of a dozen years
ago, and a sputtering screen provides a
crude computer-generated light show. The
host is some sort of marketing exec for a
large video-games company in San Jose,
and most of the guests look vaguely cor-
porate, too. The futurologist from New York
has sent his regrets; the famous socio-
biologist has also failed to arrive; the video
poets are two San Francisco gays who will
talk only to each other, and stray not very
far from the bar; the expert on teaching
chimpanzees to speak is in the red-faced-
and-sweaty stage of being drunk, and is
working hard at seducing a plump woman
festooned with astrological jewelry. Cun-
ningham, numb, drifts through the party as
though he is made of ectoplasm. He speaks
to no one; no one speaks to him. Some
jugs of red wine are open on a table by the
window, and he pours himself a glassful.
There he stands, immobile, imprisoned by
inertia. He imagines himself suddenly
making a speech about angels, telling
everyone how Ithuriel touched Satan with
his spear in the Garden of Eden as Ihe
Fiend crouched next to Eve, and how Ihe
hierarch Ataphiel keeps Heaven aloft by
balancing it on three fingers. But he says
nothing. After a time he finds himself ap-
proached by a lean, leathery-looking
woman with glittering eyes, who says, 'And
what do you do?"
"I'm a programmer," Cunningham says.
"Mainly I talk to angels. But I also do na-
tional security stuff."
"Angels?" she says, and laughs in a brit-
tle, tinkling way. "You talk to angels? I've
never heard anyone say that before." She
pours herself a drink and moves quickly
'Angels?" says the astrological woman.
"Did someone say angels?"
Cunningham smiles and shrugs and
looks out the window. It is raining harder. I
should go home, he thinks. There is ab-
solutely no point in being here. He fills his
glass again. The chimpanzee man is still
working on the astrologer, but she seems
to be trying to get free of him and come
over to Cunningham. To discuss angels with
him? She is heavy-breasted, a little wall-
eyed, sloppy-looking. He does not want to
discuss angels with her. He does not want
to discuss angels with anyone. He holds
his place at the window until it definitely
does appear that the astrologer is heading
his way; then he drifts toward the door. She
says, "I heard you say you were interested
in angels. Angels are a special field of mine,
you know. I've studied with — "
"Angles," Cunningham says. "I play the
angles. That's what I said. I'm a profes-
"Wait," she says, but he moves past her
and out into the night. It takes him a long
while to find his key and get his car un-
locked, and the rain soaks him to the skin,
but that does not bother him. He is home
a little before midnight.
He brings Raphael on line. The great
archangel radiates a beautiful golden glow.
"You will be Basileus," Raphael tells him.
"We've decided it by a vote, hierarchy by
hierarchy. Everyone agrees."
"I can't be an angel. I'm human," Cun-
"There's ample precedent. Enoch was
carried off to Heaven and became an an-
gel. So was Elijah. St. John the Baptist was
actually an angel. You will become Basi-
leus. We've already done the program for
you. It's on the disk: just call him up and
you'll see. Your own face, looking out at
"No," Cunningham says.
"How can you refuse?"
"Are you really Raphael? You sound like
someone from the other side. A tempter.
Asmodeus. Astaroth. Belphegor."
"I am Raphael. And you are Basileus."
Cunningham considers it. He is so very
tired that he can barely think.
An angel. Why not? A rainy Saturday
night, a lousy party, a splitting headache:
come home and find out you've been made
an angel, and given a high place in the
hierarchy. Why not? Why the hell not?
'All right," he says. "I'm Basileus."
He puts his hands on the keys and taps
out a simple formulation that goes straight
down the pipe into the Defense Depart-
ment's big Northern California system. With
an alteration of two keystrokes, he sends
the same message to the Soviets. Why not?
Redundancy is the soul of security. The
world now has about six minutes left. Cun-
ningham has always been good with com-
puters. He knows their secret language as
few people before him have.
Then he brings Raphael on Ihe screen
"You should see yourself as Basileus
while there's still time," the archangel says.
"Yes. Of course. What's the access key?"
Raphael tells him. Cunningham begins
fo set it up.
Come now, Basileus! We are one!
Cunningham stares at the screen with
growing wonder and delight, while the clock
continues to tick.
THE SOUL PAINTER
AND THE SHAPESHIFTER
An alien's deception provides an artist's muse-.
BY ROBERT SILVERBERG
It was a surfeit of perfection
that drove the soul painter
Therion Nismiie from the crys-
talline cities of Castle Mount to
the dark forests of the western
continent: At!- his.ljfe he had
lived amid.-the- wonders', of- the "
Mount, traveling, through ihe
Fifty Cities according to the
demands of his career, ex-
changing'one sort of splendor -
for another every rew-years.
Dundijfjiir" was his -native
city— his '-first " .canvases .-were
scenes of the Fiery. Valley.,
tempestuous ab_cf" passionate
PAINTING B.Y.CHARLES PFAHL
. ■ •■ ■'•
with the ragged energies of youth — and
then he dwelled some years in marvelous
Canzilaine of the talking statues, and af-
terward in Stee the awesome, whose out-
skirts were three days' journey across, and
in golden Halanx at the very fringes oi the
Castle, and for five years at the Castle it-
self. where he painted at the court of the
Coronal Lord Thraym. His paintings were
prized for their calm elegance and their
perfection of form, which mirrored the
lawlessness of the Fifty Cities. But the
beauty of such places numbs the soul, after
a time, and paralyzes the artistic instincts.
When Nismile reached his fortieth year, he
found himself beginning to identify perfec-
tion with stagnation: he loathed his famous
works: his spirit began to cry out for up-
heaval unpredictability, transformation.
The moment of crisis overtook him in the
gardens of Tolingar Barrier. The Coronal
had asked him for a suite of paintings of
the gardens, to decorate a pergola under
construction on the Castle's rim.
Nismile was happy to oblige. He taced
his blank canvas, drew breath deep down
into his lungs, and readied himself for en-
tering the trance state. In a moment his
soul, leaping from his dreaming mind, would
imprint the unique intensity of his vision on
the psychosensitive fabric. He glanced at
the gentle hills, the artful shrubbery, the
delicately angled leaves, and a wave of
rebellious fury crashed against him. And
he quivered and shook and nearly fell. This
immobile landscape, this static, sterile
beauty, this impeccable and matchless
garden, had no need of him: it was itself
as unchanging as a painting, and as life-
less, How ghastly! How hateful! Nismile
swayed and pressed his hands to his
pounding skull. He heard the soft, sur-
prised grunts of his companions, and when
he opened his eyes, he saw them all star-
ing in horror and embarrassment at the
blackened and bubbling canvas "Cover
it! ' he cried. Everyone was in motion at
once and in the center of the group Nis-
mile stood statue-still When he could speak
again, he said. "Tell Lord Thraym I will be
unable to fulfill his commission.
And so that day in Dundilmir he pur-
chased what he needed and began his
journey to the lowlands. He found passage
on a pilgrim ship sailing to Piliplok on the
continent of Zimroel— the entire interior of
which was wilderness, into which Lord
Stiamot had driven the aboriginal Meta-
morphs after their final defeat four thou-
sand years before.
Nismile expected the port of Piliplok to
be a mudhole. but to his surprise it turned
out to be an ancient and enormous city,
laid out according to a maddeningly rigid
mathematical plan. It was ugly, but not in
any refreshing way. and he moved on by
riverboat up the Zimr. At a town called Verf
he impulsively left the boat and set forth in
a hired wagon into the forests to the south.
When he had traveled so deep into the wil-
derness that he could see no trace of civ-
ilization, he halted and built a cabin beside
a swift, dark stream. It was three years since
he had left Castle Mount. Through all his
journey he had been alone and had spo-
ken to others only when necessary, and he
had not painted at all.
Here Nismile began to heal. Everything
in this place was unfamiliar and wonderful.
On Castle Mount, where the climate was
artificially controlled, an endless sweet
springtime reigned, the unreal air was clear
and pure, and rainfall came at predictable
times. But now he was in a rain forest, where
the soil was spongy and yielding, clouds
and tongues of fog often drifted by. show-
ers were frequent, and the vegetation was
a chaotic, tangled anarchy. It was as far
removed as he could imagine from the
symmetries of Tolingar Barrier. He wore lit-
tle clothing, learned by trial and error what
roots and berries and shoots were safe to
eat. and devised a wickerwork weir to help
him catch the slender crimson fish that
flashed like skyrockets through the stream.
He walked for hours through the dense
jungle, savoring not only its strange beauty
but also the tense pleasure of wondering
whether he could find his way back to his
cabin. Often he sang, in a loud, erratic
voice: he had never sung on Castle Mount.
Occasionally he started to prepare a can-
vas, but always he put it away unused. He
composed nonsensical poems, voluptu-
ous strings oi syllables, and chanted them
to an audience of slender, towering trees
and incomprehensibly intertwined vines.
Sometimes he thought back to the court of
Lord Thraym. wondering whether the Cor-
onal had hired a new artist to paint the dec-
orations for the pergola, and whether the
halatingas were now blooming along the
road to High Morpin. But such thoughts
He lost track of time. Four or five or per-
haps six weeks— how could he tell?— went
by before he saw his first Metamorph.
The encounter took place in a marshy
meadow two miles upstream from his cabin.
Nismile had gone there to gather the suc-
culent scarlet bulbs of mud-lilies, which he
had learned to mash and roast into a sort
of bread. They grew deep, and he dug them
by working his arm to the shoulder into the
muck and groping about with one cheek
pressed to the ground. He came up muddy-
faced and slippery, clutching a dripping
handful, and was startled to find a figure
calmly watching him from a distance of a
He had never seen a Metamorph. The
native beings of Majipoor were perpetually
exiled from the capital continent. Alhan-
roel. where Nismile had spent all his years.
But he had an idea of how they looked,
and he felt sure this must be one: an enor-
mously tall, fragile, sallow-skinned being,
sharp-faced, with inward-sloping eyes, a
barely perceptible nose, and stringy, rub-
bery hair of a pale greenish hue. It wore
only a leather loin harness. A short, sharp
dirk of some polished black wood was
strapped to its hip. In eerie dignity the
Metamorph stood balanced with one frail,
long leg twisted around the shin ot the other.
It seemed both sinister and gentle, men-
acing and comical Nismile chose not to
"Hello," he said. "Do you mind if I gather
The Metamorph was silent.
"I have the cabin down the stream. I'm
Therion Nismile. I used to be a soul painter
when I lived on Castle Mount."
The Metamorph regarded him solemnly.
An unreadable expression flickered across
its face. Then the Metamorph turned and
slipped gracefully into the jungle, vanish-
ing almost at once,
Nismile shrugged. He dug for more mud-
A week or two later he met another Meta-
morph, or perhaps the same one, this time
while he was stripping bark from a vine to
make rope for a bilantoon trap. Once more
the aborigine was wordless, materializing
quietly like an apparition in front of Nismile
and contemplating him from the same un-
settling one-legged stance. A second time
Nismile tried to draw the creature into con-
versation, but at his first words it drifted
off. ghostlike. "Wait!" Nismile called. "I'd
like to talk with you. I — " But he was alone
A few days afterward he was collecting
firewood and soon became aware that he
was being studied. At once he said to the
Metamorph, "I've caught a bilantoon. and
I'm about to roast it. There's more meat
than I need. Will you share my dinner?"
The Metamorph smiled— he took that
enigmatic dicker for a smile, though il could
have been anything — and as if by way of
replying underwent a sudden astonishing
shift, turning itself into a mirror image of
Nismile. stocky and muscular, with dark,
penetrating eyes and shoulder-length black
hair. Nismile blinked wildly and trembled;
then, recovering, he smiled, taking the
mimicry as some form of communication,
and said. "Marvelous! I cant begin to see
how you people do it!" He beckoned.
"Come. It'll take an hour and a half to cook
the bilantoon. and we can talk until then.
You understand our language, don't you?"
It was bizarre beyond measure, this
speaking to a duplicate of himself. "Say
something, eh? Tell me: Is there a Meta-
morph village somewhere nearby? Pturf-
var," he corrected, remembering the
Melamorphs' name for themselves. "Eh? A
lot of Piuhvars hereabouts, in the jungle?"
Nismile gestured again. "Walk with me to
my cabin and we'll get the fire going. You
don't have any wine, do you? That's the
only thing I miss. I think, some good Strong
wine, the heavy stuff they make in Mulde-
mar. Won't taste that ever again. I guess,
but there's wine in Zimroel. isn't there? Eh?
Will you say something?" But the Meia-
morph responded only with a grimace,
perhaps intended as a grin, that twisted
the Nismile face into something harsh and
strange; then it resumed its own form in an
instant and with calm, floating strides
started walking away.
Nismile hoped for a time that it would
return with a flask of wine, but he did nof
see it again. Curious creatures, he thought.
Were they angry that he was camped in
their territory? Were they keeping him un-
der surveillance out of fear that he was the
vanguard of a wave of human settlers?
Oddly, he felt himself in no danger. Meta-
morphs were generally considered to be
malevolent: certainly they were disquiet-
ing beings, alien and unfathomable Plenty
ol tales were told of Metamorph raids on
outlying human settlements, and no doubt
these Shapeshifter folk harbored bitter
hatred for those who had come to their world
and dispossessed them, driving them into
the jungles. Nismile knew himself to be a
man of goodwill, who had never done harm
toothers and wanted only to be left to live
his life, and he fancied that some subtle
sense would lead the Metamorphs lo re-
alize that he was not their enemy. He wished
he could become their friend. He was
growing hungry for conversation after his
time of solitude and thought it might be
challenging and rewarding lo exchange
ideas with these strange folk He might even
paint one. He had been thinking of return-
ing to his art. of experiencing that moment
ol creative ecstasy as his soul leaped the
gap to the psychosensitive canvas and in-
scribed on it those images that he alone
could fashion. Surely he was different now
from the increasingly unhappy man he had
been on Castle Mount, and that difference
must show itself in his work. During the
next few days he rehearsed speeches de-
signed to win the confidence of the Meta-
morphs, to overcome that strange shyness
of theirs, that delicacy of bearing that
blocked any sort of contact. In time, he
thought, they would grow used to him; they
would begin to speak, to accept his invi-
tation to eat with him. and then perhaps
they would pose —
But in the days that followed he saw no
more Metamorphs. He roamed the forest,
peering hopefully into thickets and down
mist-swept lanes of trees, and found no
one. He decided that he had been too for-
ward and had frightened them away— so
much for the malevolence of the mon-
strous Metamorphs!— and after a while he
ceased to expect further contact It was
disturbing. He had not missed companion-
Ship when none seemed likely, but the
knowledge that there were intelligent beings
somewhere in the area kindled an aware-
ness of loneliness in him that was not easy
One damp and warm day several weeks
after his last Metamorph encounter, Nis-
mile was swimming in the cool, deep pond
formed by a natural dam of boulders hall
a mile below his cabin. He saw a pale, slim
figure moving quickly through a dense
bower of blue-leaved bushes near the
shore. He scrambled out of the water,
barking his knees on the rocks. "Wait!" he
shouted. "Please— don't be afraid— don't
go — " The figure disappeared, but Nis-
mile, thrashing frantically through the un-
derbrush, caught sight of it again in a few
minutes, leaning casually now against an
enormous tree with vivid red bark.
Nismile stopped short, amazed, for the
other was no Metamorph, but a human
She was slender and young and naked,
with thick, auburn hair, narrow shoulders,
small, high breasts, and bright, playful eyes.
She seemed altogether unafraid of him. a
forest sprite who had obviously enjoyed
leading him on this little chase. As he sfood
gaping at her, she looked him over unhur-
riedly and with an outburst of clear, tinkling
laughter said. "You're all scratched and torn!
Can't you run in the forest any better than
that? You should take more care."
"I didn't want you to get away."
"Oh, I wasn't going to go far. You know,
I was walching you for a long time before
you noticed me. You're the man from the
"Yes. And you — where do you live?"
"Here and there," she said airily.
He stared at her in wonder. Her beauty
delighted him, and her shamelessness as-
tounded him. She might almost be a hal-
lucination, he thought. Where had she come
from? What was a human being, naked and
alone, doing in this primordial jungle?
Of course not, Nismile realized, with the
sudden, sharp grief of a child who has been
given some coveted treasure in a dream,
only to wake aglow and perceive the sad
reality. Remembering how effortlessly the
Metamorph had mimicked him, Nismile
comprehended the dismal probability: This
was some prank, some masquerade. He
studied her intently, seeking a sign of
Metamorph identity, a flickering of the pro-
jeclion, a trace of knife-sharp cheekbones
and sloping eyes behind Ihe cheerfully im-
pudent lace. She was convincingly human
in every degree. And yel— how implausi-
ble to meet one of his own kind here, how
much more likely that she was a Shape-
shifter, a deceiver-
He did not want to believe that. He re-
solved to meet the possibility of deception
with a conscious act of faith, in the hope
that that would make her be what she
seemed to be.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Sarise, And yours?"
"Nismile. Where do you live?"
"In the forest."
"Then there's a human settlement not far
She shrugged. "I live by myself." She
came toward him. He felt his muscles
growing taut as she moved closer, and his
skin seemed to be blazing. She touched
her fingers lightly to the cuts the vines had
made on his arms and chest. "Don't those
scratches bother you?"
"They're beginning to. I should wash
"Yes. Let's go back to the pool. I know
a better way than the one you took. Follow
trail. Gracefully she sprinled off. and he
ran behind her, delighted by the ease of
her movements, the play of muscles in her
back and buttocks. He plunged into the
pool a moment after she did. The chilly
water soothed the stinging of the cuts. When
they climbed out, he yearned to draw her
to him and enclose her in his arms, but he
did not dare. They sprawled on the mossy
bank. There was mischief in her eyes.
He said, "My cabin isn't far,"
"Would you like to go there?"
"Some other time, Nismile."
"All right. Some other lime."
"Where do you come Irom?" she asked.
"I was born on Castle Mount. Do you
know where that is? I was a soul painter at
the Coronal's court. Oo you know what soul
painting is? It's done with the mind and a
sensitive canvas, and— I could show you.
I could paint you. Sarise. I take a close look
at something, I seize its essence with my
deepest consciousness, and then I go into
a kind of trance, almost a waking dream,
and I transform what I've seen into some-
thing of my own and hurl it on the canvas.
I capture the truth of it in one quick blaze
of transference — "
She scarcely seemed to have heard him.
"Would you like to touch me, Nismile?"
"Yes. Very much."
The thick turquoise moss was like a car-
pet. She rolled toward him. and his hand
hovered above her body. He hesitated, for
he was still certain that she was a Meta-
morph playing some perverse Shapeshift-
er game with him, and a heritage of thou-
sands of years of dread and loathing
surfaced in him. He was terrified of touch-
ing her and discovering that her skin had
the clammy, repugnant texture that he
imagined Metamorph skin to have, or that
she would shift and turn into a creature of
alien form the moment she was in his arms.
Her eyes were closed, her lips were parted,
her tongue flickered between them like a
serpent's; she was waiting In terror he
forced his hand down to her breast. But
her flesh was warm and yielding, and it felt
very much the way the flesh of a young
human woman should feel. With a seft, lit-
tle cry she pressed herself into his em-
brace. For a dismaying instant the gro-
tesque image of a Metamorph rose in his
mind, angular and long-limbed and nose-
less, but he shoved the thought away
fiercely and gave himself up entirely to her
lithe and vigorous body.
For a long time afterward they lay still.
side by side, hands clasped, saying noth-
ing, Even when a light rainshower came,
they did not move but simply allowed the
quick, sharp sprinkle to wash the sweat
from their skins. He opened his eyes and
found her watching him with keen curiosity.
"I want to paint you," he said.
"Not now. Tomorrow. You'll come to my
cabin, and then I can—"
"I haven't tried to paint in years. It's im-
portant to me to begin again. And I want
very much tc paint you."
"I want very much not to be painted,"
"No," she said gently. She rolled away
and StdOd up. "Paint the jungle. Paint the
podl. Don't paint me. all right. Nismile 7 All
He made an unhappy gesture of ac-
She said, "I have to leave now."
"Will you tell me where you live?"
"I already have. Here and there. In the
forest. Why do you ask these questions?"
"I want to be able to find you again. If
you disappear, how will I know where to
"I know where to find ydu." she said.
"Will you come to me tomorrow? To my
"I think I will."
He took her hand and drew her toward
him. But now she was hesitant, remote. The
mystery surrounding her throbbed in his
mind. She had told him nothing but her
name. He found it too difficult to believe
that she, like him, was a solitary of the jun-
gle, wandering as the whim came, but he
doubted that he could have failed to de-
tect, in all these weeks, the existence of a
human village nearby. The most likely ex-
planation was that she was a Shapeshifter.
embarked on an adventure with a human.
Much as he resisted that idea, he was tod
rational to reject it completely. But she
looked human, she felt human, she acted
human. How adept were these Meta-
morphs at their transformations? He was
templed to ask her outright whether his
suspicions were correct, but thai was fool-
ishness; she had answered nothing else,
and surely she would not answer that. He
kept his questions to himself She gently
pulled her hand free of his grasp and
stepped toward the fern-bordered trail and
Nismile waited at his cabin all the next
day. She did not come. It scarcely sur-
prised him. Their meeting had been a
dream, a fantasy, an interlude beyond time
and space. He did not expect to see her
again. Toward evening he drew a canvas
from the pack he had brought with him and
set it up, thinking he might paint fhe view
from his cabin as twilight purpled the forest
air. He studied the landscape a long while,
testing the verticals of the slender trees
against the heavy horizontal of a thick,
sprawling, yellow-berried bush, and even-
tually shook his head and put his canvas
away. Nothing about this landscape needed
to be captured by art In the morning, he
thought, he would hike upstream past the
meaddw to a place where fleshy, red suc-
culents sprouted like rubbery spikes from
a deep cleft in a great rock: a more prom-
ising scene, perhaps.
But in the morning he found excuses for
delaying his departure, and by noon it
seemed too late to go. He worked in his
little garden plot instead— he had begun
transplanting sdme of the shrubs whose
fruits or greens he ate — and that occupied
him for hours. In late afternoon a milky fog
settled over the forest. He went inside, and
a few minutes later there was a knock at
"I had given up hope." he told her.
Sarise's forehead and brows were
beaded with moisture. The fog. he thought,
or maybe she had been dancing along the
path. "I promised I'd come." she said softly.
"This is yesterday,'' she said, laughing,
and drew a flask from her robe. "You like
wine? I found some of this. I had to go a
long distance to get it. Yesterday,"
It was a young gray wine, the kind that
tickles the tongue with its sparkle. The flask
had no label, but he supposed it to be some
Zimroel wine, unknown on Castle Mount.
They drank it all, he more than she— she
filled his cup again and again— and when
it was gone, they went outside td make love
on the cool, damp ground beside the stream
and fell into a doze afterward. She woke
him in some small hour of the night and led
him to his bed. They spent the rest of the
night pressed close to each other, and the
next morning she showed no desire to
leave. They went to the pool to begin the
day with a swim; they embraced again on
the turquoise moss She guided him to the
gigantic red-barked tree where he had first
seen her and pointed out to him a colossal
yellow fruit, three or four yards across, that
had fallen from one of its enormous
branches. Nismile looked at it doubtfully.
It had split open, and its interior was a
scarlet, custardy stulf, studded with huge,
gleaming black seeds. "Dwikka," she said.
"It will make us drunk." She stripped off
her robe and used it lo wrap great chunks
of Ihe dwikka fruil, which Ihey carried back
lo his cabin and spenl all morning ealing.
They sang and laughed most of the after-
noon. For dinner Ihey grilled some fish from
Nismile's weir, and later, as they lay arm in
arm watching the night descend, she asked
him a thousand questions about his past
life, his painting, his boyhood, his travels,
about Castle Mount, the Fifty Cities, the Six
Rivers, the royal court of Lord Thraym. the
royal Castle of uncountable rooms. The
questions came from her in a torrent, the
newest one rushing forth almost before he
had dealt with the last. Her bubbling curi-
osity was inexhaustible.
"What will we do tomorrow?" she asked
at long last.
So they became lovers. For the first few
days they did little but eat and swim and
embrace and devour Ihe intoxicating fruit
of the dwikka tree. He ceased to fear, as
he had at the beginning, that she would
disappear as suddenly as she had come
to him. Her flood of questions subsided,
after a time, but even so he chose not to
take his turn, preferring to leave her mys-
He could not shake his obsession with
the idea that she was a fvletamorph. The
thought chilled him — that her beauty was
a lie, that behind it she was alien and gro-
tesque—especially when he ran his hands
over the cool, sweet smoothness of her
thighs or breasts. He constantly had to fight
away his suspicions. But they would not
leave him. There were no human outposts
in this part of Zimroel, and it was too im-
plausible that this girl — for that was all she
was, a girl — had elected to take up a her-
mit's life here. Far more likely, Nismile
thought, that she was native to this place,
one of the unknown numbers of Shape-
shifters who slipped like phantoms through
these humid groves. When she slept, he
sometimes watched her by faint starlight
to see whether she began to lose human
form. Always she remained as she was,
and even so, he suspected her.
And yet, and yet, and yet it was not in
the nature ot Metamorphs to seek human
company or to show warmth toward them.
Humans had stolen this vast world of fvla-
jipoor from them — coming here thousands
of years ago, finding the Shapeshifters al-
ready in decline, their mighty stone cities
in ruins, and finishing the job by appropri-
ating their most fertile lands, sequestering
them in ever smaller regions, defeating their
last uprising in Lord Stiamot's lime and
forcing them, ultimately, into the Zimroel
forests, out of sight, out of mind. To most
people of Majipoor the Metamorphs were
ghosts of a former era, revenants, unreal,
legendary. Why would one seek him out in
his seclusion, offer itself to him in so con-
vincing a counterfeit of love, strive with such
zeal to brighten his days and enliven his
nights? In a moment of paranoia he imag-
ined Sarise reverting in the darkness to her
true shape and rising above him as he slept
to plunge a gleaming dirk into his throat:
revenge for the crimes of his ancestors.
But what folly such fantasies were! If the
Metamorphs wanted to murder him, they
needed no such elaborate charades.
It was almost as absurd to believe that
she was a Metamorph as to believe that
she was not.
To put these matters from his mind, he
resolved to take up his art again. On an
unusually clear and sunny day he set out
with Sarise for the rock of the red succu-
lents, carrying a raw canvas. She watched,
fascinated, as he prepared everything.
"You do the painting entirely with your
mind?" she asked.
"Entirely. I fix the scene in my soul, I
transform and rearrange and heighten, and
then — you'll see."
"Is it all right if I watch? I won't spoil it?"
"Of course not."
"But if someone else's mind gets into the
"It can't happen. The canvases are tuned
to me." He squinted, made frames with his
fingers, moved a few feet this way and that.
His throat was dry and his hands were
quivering. So many years since he had last
done this: Would he still have the gift? And
the technique? He aligned the canvas and
touched it in a preliminary way with his mind.
The scene was a good one, vivid, bizarre,
the color contrasts powerful ones, the
compositional aspects challenging, that
massive rock, those weird, meaty red
plants, the tiny, yellow floral bracts at their
tips, the forest-dappled sunlight. Yes, yes,
it would work, it would amply serve as the
vehicle through which he could convey the
texture of this dense, tangled jungle, this
place of shapeshifting—
He closed his eyes. He entered trance.
He hurled the picture to the canvas.
Sarise uttered a small surprised cry.
Nismile felt sweat break out all over; he
staggered and fought for breath; after a
moment he regained control and looked
toward the canvas in front of him.
"How beautiful!" Sarise murmured.
But he was shaken by what he saw. Those
dizzying diagonals — the blurred and
streaked colors— the heavy greasy sky,
hanging in sullen loops from the horizon —
it looked nothing like the scene he had tried
to capture, and, far more troublesome,
nothing like the work of Therion Nismile. It
was a dark and anguished painting, cor-
rupted by unintended discords.
"Don't you like it?" she asked.
"It isn't what I had in mind."
"Even so, how wonderful to make the
picture come out on the canvas like that!
And such a lovely thing!"
"You think it's lovely?"
"Yes, of course! Don't you?"
He stared at her. 77iis? Lovely? Was she
flattering him, or merely ignorant of pre-
vailing tastes, or did she genuinely admire
what he had done? This strange, tor-
mented painting, this somber and alien
"You don't like it." she said. Not a ques-
tion this time.
"I haven't painted in almost four years.
Maybe I need to go about it slowly, to get
the way of it right again — "
"I spoiled your painting," Sarise said.
"You? Don't be silly."
"My mind got mixed into It, My way of
"I told you that the canvases are tuned
to me alone. I could be in the midst of a
thousand people, and none of them would
affect the painting "
"But perhaps I distracted you. I swerved
your mind somehow."
"I'll go for a walk. Paint another one while
"No, Sarise. This one is splendid. The
more I look at it, the more pleased I am.
Come. Let's go home. Let's swim and eat
some dwikka and make love. Yes?"
He took the canvas from its mount and
rolled it. But what she had said affected
him more than he would admit. Some kind
of strangeness had entered the painting,
no doubt of it. What if she had managed
somehow to taint it, her hidden Metamorph
soul radiating its essence into his spirit,
coloring the impulses of his mind with an
alien hue —
They walked downstream in silence.
When they reached the meadow of the mud-
lilies where Nismile had seen his first Meta-
morph, he heard himself blurt, "Sarise, I
have to ask you something."
He could not halt himself. "You aren't hu-
man, are you? You're realiy a Metamorph,
She stared at him, wide-eyed, color ris-
ing in her cheeks.
"Are you serious?"
"Me a Metamorph?" She laughed, not
very convincingly. "What a wild idea!"
"Answer me. Sarise. Look into my eyes
and answer me."
"It's too foolish, Therion."
"Please. Answer me."
"You want me to prove I'm human? How
"I want you to tell me that you're human.
Or that you're something else."
"I'm human," she said.
"Can I believe that?"
"I don't know. Can you? I've given you
your answer." Her eyes flashed with mirth.
"Don't I teel human? Don't I act human?
Do I seem like an imitation?"
"Perhaps I'm unable to tell."
"Why do you think I'm a Metamorph?"
"Because only Metamorphs live in this
jungle," he said. "It seems — logical. Even
though — " He faltered. "Look, I've had my
answer. It was a stupid question and I'd
like to drop the subject. All right?"
"How strange you are! You must be an-
gry. You do think I spoiled your painting."
"That's not so."
"You're a very poor liar. Therion."
"All right. Something spoiled my paint-
ing. I don't know what. It wasn't the paint-
ing I intended."
"Paint another one then."
"I will. Let me paint you, Sarise."
"I told you I didn't want to be painted." ■
"I need to. I need .to see what's in my
own soul, and the only way I can know — "
"Paint the dwikka tree, Therion. Paint the
"Why not paint you?"
"The idea makes me uncomfortable."
"You aren't giving me a real answer. What
is there about being painted that — "
"Are you afraid I'll see you on the canvas
in a way that you won't like? Is that it? That
I'll get a different answer to my questions
when I paint you?"
"Let me paint you."
"Give me a reason then."
"I can't," she said.
"Then you can't refuse." He drew a can-
vas from his pack. "Here, in the meadow,
now. Go on, Sarise. Stand beside the
stream. It'll take only a moment — "
"If you love me, Sarise, let me paint you."
It was a clumsy bit of blackmail, and it
shamed him to have attempted it. And it
angered her, for he saw a harsh glitter in
her eyes that he had never seen there be-
fore. They confronted each other for a tense
Then she said in a cold, flat voice, "Not
here. Therion. At the cabin. I'll let you paint
me there, if you insist."
Neither of them spoke on the way home.
He was tempted to forget the whole thing.
It seemed to him that he had imposed his
will by force, that he had committed a sort
of rape, and he almost wished he could
retreat from the position he had won. But
there would never be any going back to
the old easy harmony between them, and
he had to have the answers he needed.
Uneasily he set about preparing a canvas.
"Where shall I stand?" she asked.
'Anywhere. By the stream. By the cabin."
In a slouching, slack-limbed way she
moved toward the cabin. He nodded and
dispiritedly began the final steps before
entering trance. Sarise glowered at him.
Tears were welling in her eyes.
"I love you." he cried abruptly, and went
down into trance, and the last thing he saw
before he closed his eyes was Sarise al-
tering her pose, coming out of her moody
slouch, squaring her shoulders, eyes sud-
denly bright, smile flashing.
When he opened his eyes, the painting
was done and Sarise was staring timidly
at him from the cabin door.
"How is it?" she asked.
"Come. See for yourself."
She walked to his side. They examined
the picture together, and after a moment
Nismile slipped his arm around her shoul
der. She shivered and moved closer to him
The painting showed a woman with hu-
man eyes and Metamorph mouth and nose.
against a jagged and chaotic background
of clashing reds and oranges and pinks.
She said quietly, "Now do you know what
you wanted to know?"
"Was it you in the meadow? And the two
"You interested me, Therion. I wanted to
know all about you. I had never seen any-
thing like you."
"I still don't believe it," he whispered.
She pointed toward the painting. "Be-
lieve it. Therion."
'You have your answer now."
'I know you're human. The painting lies."
'Prove it for me Change for me. Change
now." He released her and stepped a short
way back. "Do it. Change for me."
She looked at him sadly. Then, without
perceptible transition, she turned herself
into a replica of him, as she had done once
before: the final proof, the unanswerable
answer. A muscle quivered wildly in his
cheek. He watched her, and she changed
again, this time into something terrifying
and monstrous, a nightmarish, gray, pock-
marked balloon of a thing with flabby skin
and eyes like saucers and a hooked black
beak; and from thai she went to the Meta-
morph form, taller than he. hollow-chested
and featureless, and then she was Sarise
once more, cascades of auburn hair, del-
icate hands, strong thighs.
"No," he said. "Not that one. No more
She became the Metamorph again.
He nodded. "Yes. That's better. Stay that
way. It's more beautiful."
"I find you beautiful. Like this. As you
really are. Deception is always ugly."
He reached for her hand. It had six fin-
gers, very long and narrow, without fin-
gernails or visible joints. Her skin was silky
and faintly glossy, and it felt not at all as
he had expected. He ran his hands lightly
over her slim, virtually fleshless body. She
was altogether motionless.
"I should go now," she said at last.
"Stay with me. Live here with me."
"Even now. In your true form."
"You still want me?"
"Very much," he said. "Will you stay?"
She said, "When I first came to you, it
was to watch you, to study you, to play with
you, perhaps even to mock and hurt you.
You are the enemy, Therion. Your kind must
always be the enemy. But as we began to
live together, I saw there was no reason to
hate you. Not you, you as a special indi-
vidual, do you understand?"
It was the voice of Sarise coming from
those alien lips. How strange! he thought.
How much like a dream!
She said, "I began to want to be with
you. To make the game go on forever. But
the game had to end. And yet 1 still want
to be with you."
"Then stay, Sarise."
"Only if you truly want me."
"I've told you that,"
"I don't horrify you?"
"Paint me again, Therion. Show me with
a painting. Show me love on the canvas.
Therion, and then I'll stay."
He painted her day after day, until he
had used every canvas, and hung them ail
about the interior of the cabin. Sarise and
the dwikka tree. Sarise in the meadow. Sar-
ise against the milky fog of evening. Sarise
at twilight, green against purple. There was
no way he could prepare more canvases.
although he tried. It did not really matter.
They began to go on long voyages of ex-
ploration together, down one stream and
another, into distant parts of the forest, and
she showed him new trees and flowers.
and the creatures of the jungle, the toothy
lizards and the burrowing golden worms
and the sinister, ponderous amorfibots
sleeping away their days in muddy lakes.
They said little to one another; the time for
answering questions was over and words
were no longer needed.
Day slipped into day, week into week.
and in this land of no seasons it was diffi-
cult to measure the passing of time. Per-
haps a month went by, perhaps six. They
encountered no one else. The jungle was
full ot Metamorphs, she told him, but they
were keeping their distance, and she hoped
they would leave them alone forever.
One afternoon of steady drizzle he went
out to check his traps, and when he re-
turned an hour later, he knew at once that
something was wrong. As he approached
the cabin, four Metamorphs emerged. He
felt sure that one was Sarise, but he could
not tell which one. "Wait!" he cried as they
moved past him. He ran after them. "What
do you want with her 7 Let her go! Sarise?
Sarise? Who are they? What do they want?"
For just an instant one of the Meta-
morphs flickered, and he saw the girl with
the auburn hair, but only for an instant; then
there were four Metamorphs again, gliding
like ghosts toward the depths of the jungle.
The rain grew more intense, and a heavy
fog bank drifted in, cutting off all visibility.
Nismile paused at the edge of the clearing,
straining desperately for sounds over the
patter of the rain and the loud throb of the
stream. He imagined he heard weeping:
he thought he heard a cry of pain, but it
might have been any other sort of forest
sound. There was no hope of following the
Metamorphs into thai impenetrable zone
of thick, white mist.
He never saw Sarise again, or any other
Metamorph. For a while he hoped he would
come upon Shapeshifters in the forest and
be slain by them with their little polished
dirks, for the loneliness was intolerable now.
But that did not happen, and when it be-
came obvious that he was living in a sort
of quarantine, cut off not only from Sar-
ise — if she was still alive — but from the en-
tire society of the Metamorph folk, he found
himself unable to dwell in the clearing be-
side the stream any longer. He rolled up
his paintings of Sarise and carefully dis-
mantled his cabin and began the long and
perilous journey back to civilization.
It was a week before his fiftieth birthday
when he reached the borders of Castle
Mount. In his absence, he discovered. Lord
Thraym had become Pontifex. and the new
Coronal was Lord Vildivar. a man of little
sympathy for the arts. Nismile rented a stu-
dio on the riverbank at Stee and began to
paint again. He worked only from memory:
dark and disturbing scenes of jungle life.
often showing Metamorphs lurking in the
middle distance. It was not the sort of work
likely to be popular on the cheerful and
airy world of Majipoor, and Nismile found
few buyers at first. But in lime his paintings
caught the fancy of the Duke of Qurain,
who had begun to weary of sunny serenity
and perfect proportion. Under the Duke's
patronage, Nismile's work grew fashion-
able, and in the later years of his life there
was a ready market for everything he pro-
He was widely imitated, though never
successfully, and he was the subject of
many critical essays and biographical
studies. "Your paintings are so turbulent
and strange." one scholar said to him.
"Have you devised some method of work-
ing from dreams?"
"I work only from memory," said Nismile.
"From painful memory, I would be so bo'd
as to venture."
"Not at all," answered Nismile. "All my
work is intended to help me recapture a
time of joy, a time of love, the happiest and
most precious moment of my life." He stared
past the questioner into distant mists, thick
and soft as wool, thai swirled through
lumps of tall, slender trees bound by a
' network of vines.
Her diplomatic mission
was a pretense to get inside
the Emperor's court
BY ROBERT SILVERBERG
I he foreign minister of
the Empire of San Francisco was trying to
sleep late. Last night had been a long one, a
wild if not particularly gratifying party at the
Baths, too much to drink, too much to smoke,
and he had seen the dawn come up like
thunder out of Oakland 'crost the Bay. Now
the telephone was ringing. He integrated the
first couple of rings nicely into his dream, but
Ihe next one began to undermine his slum-
ber, and the one after that woke him up. He
groped for the receiver and, eyes still closed,
managed to croak. "Christensen here."
"Tom, are you awake? You don't sound
awake. It's Morty. Tom. Wake up."
The undersecretary for external affairs.
Christensen sat up, rubbed his eyes, ran his
tongue around his lips. Daylight was stream-
ing into the room. His cats were glaring at
him from the doorway. The little Siamese
pawed daintily at her empty bowl and looked
PAINTING BY JEAN-PIERRE ALAUX
up expectantly. The fat Persian just sal.
"I'm up! I'm up! What is it, Morty?"
"I didn't mean to wake you. How was I sup-
posed to know, one in the afternoon — "
"What is it, Morty?"
"We got a call from Monterey. There's an
ambassador on the way up, and you've got
lo meet with her."
The foreign minister worked hard at
clearing the fog from his brain. He was
thirty-nine years old, and all-night parties
took more out of him than they once had.
"You do it, Morty."
"You know I would, Tom. But I can't. You've
got lo handle this one yourself. It's prime."
"Prime? What kind of prime? You mean,
like a great dope deal? Or are Ihey de-
claring war on us?"
"How would I know the details? The call
came in. and Ihey said it was prime. Ms.
Sawyer must confer with Mr. Christensen.
It wouldn't involve dope, Tom. And it can't
be war, either. Shit, why would Monterey
want to make war on us? They've only got
ten soldiers, I bet, unless they're drafting
the Chicanos out of the Salinas calabozo.
and besides — "
"All right." Christensen's head was
buzzing. "Go easy on the chatter. Okay?
Where am I supposed to meet her?"
"She won't come into the city. She thinks
it's too dangerous over here."
"What do we do. kill ambassadors and
barbecue them? She'll be safe here, and
she knows it."
"Look, I talked to her. She thinks the city
is too crazy. She'll come as far as Berkeley,
but that's it."
"Tell her to go to hell."
"Tom, Tom — "
Christensen sighed. "Where in Berkeley
will she be?"
"The Claremont. al half past four."
'Jesus," Christensen said, "How did you
get me into this? All the way across to the
East Bay to meel a lousy ambassador from
Monterey! Let her come to San Francisco.
This is the Empire, isn't it? They're only a
stinking republic. Am I supposed to swim
over to Oakland every time an envoy shows
up and wiggles a finger? Some bozo from
Fresno says boo. and I have to haul my ass
out to the Valley, eh? Where does it stop?
What kind of clout do I have, anyway?"
"Tom — "
"I'm sorry, Morty. I don't feel like a god-
damned diplomat this morning,"
"It isn't morning anymore, Tom. But I'd
do it for you if I could."
"All right. All right. I didn't mean to yell
at you. You make the ferry arrangements,"
"Ferry leaves at three-thirty. Chauffeur
will pick you up at three, okay?"
"Okay," Christensen said. "See if you can
find out any more about all this, and have
somebody call me back in an hour with a
briefing, will you?"
He fed the cat, showered, shaved, took
a couple of pills, and brewed some coffee.
At half past two the ministry called. No-
body had any idea what the ambassador
might want. Relations between San Fran-
cisco and the Republic of Monterey were
cordial just now. Ms. Sawyer lived in Pa-
cific Grove and was a member of the Mon-
terey Senate; that was all that was known
about her. Some briefing, he thought.
He went downstairs to wait for his chauf-
feur. It was a late autumn day. bright and
clear and cool. The rains hadn't begun yet,
and Ihe streets looked dusfy. The foreign
minister lived on Frederick Street, just off
Cole, in an old white Victorian with a small
front porch. He settled in on the steps, feel-
ing wide awake but surly, and a few min-
utes before three his car came putt-putt-
ing up, a venerable gray Chevrolet with the
arms of imperial San Francisco on its doors.
The driver was Vietnamese, or maybe Thai.
Christensen got in without a word, and off
they went at an imperial velocity through
the virtually empty streets, down lo Haight.
eastward for a while, then onto Oak, up
Van Ness, pas! the palace, where at this
moment the Emperor Norton VII was prob-
ably taking his imperial nap, and along Post
and then Market to the ferry slip.
The stump of ihe Bay Bridge glittered
magically against the sharp blue sky. A
small power cruiser was waiting for him.
Christensen was silent during the slow, dull
voyage. A chill wind cut through the Golden
Gate and made him huddle info himself.
He stared broodingly at Ihe low, rounded
East Bay hills, dry and brown from a long
summer of droughl. and thought about the
permutations of fate that had transformed
an adequate architect into the barely com-
petent foreign minister of this barely com-
petent little nation. The Empire of San
Francisco, one of the early emperors had
said, is the only country in history that was
decadent from the day it was founded.
At the Berkeley marina Christensen told
the ferry skipper, "I don't know what time
I'll be coming back. So no sense waiting,
I'll phone in when I'm ready to go."
Another imperial car took him up the hill-
side to the sprawling nineteenth-century
splendor of the Claremont Hotel, that vast,
antiquated survivor of all the cataclysms.
It was seedy now, the grounds a jungle, ivy
almost to the tops of the palm trees, and
yet it still looked fit lo be a palace, with
hundreds of rooms and magnificent ban-
quet halls. Christensen wondered how often
it had guests. There wasn't much tourism
In the parking plaza outside the en-
trance was a single car, a black-and-white
California Highway Patrol job that had been
decorated with Ihe insignia of the Republic
of Monterey, a contorted cypress tree and
a sea otter. A uniformed driver lounged
against if, looking bored. "I'm Christen-
sen," he told the man,
"You the foreign minister?"
"I'm not the Emperor Norton,"
"Come on. She's waiting in the bar."
Ms. Sawyer stood up as he entered— a
slender, dark-haired woman of about thirty,
with cool, green eyes— and he flashed her
a quick, professionally cordial smile, which
she returned just as professionally. He did
not feel at all cordial.
"Senator Sawyer," he said. "I'm Tom
"Glad to know you." She pivoted and
gestured toward the huge picture window
that ran the length of the bar. "I just got
here. I've been admiring the view It's been
years since I've been in the Bay Area."
He nodded. From the cocktail lounge one
could see the slopes of Berkeley, the bay,
the ruined bridges, the still-imposing San
Francisco skyline. Very nice. They took
seats by Ihe window, and he beckoned to
a waiter, who brought them drinks.
"How was your drive up?" Christensen
"No problems. We got stopped for
speeding in San Jose, but I got out of it.
They could see it was an official car, but
they stopped us anyway."
"The lousy bastards. They love to look
"Things haven't been good between
Monterey and San Jose all year. They're
spoiling for trouble."
"I hadn't heard," Christensen said.
"We think they want to annex Santa Cruz.
Naturally we can't put up with that. Santa
Cruz is our buffer."
He asked sharply, "Is that what you came
here for, to ask our help against San Jose?"
She stared at him in surprise. 'Are you
in a hurry, Mr. Christensen?"
"You sound awfully impatient. We're still
making preliminary conversation, having a
drink, two diplomats playing the diplo-
matic game. Isn't that so?"
"I was telling you what happened to me
on the way north. In response to your
question. Then I was filling you in on cur-
rent political developments. I didn't expect
you to snap at me like that."
"Did I snap?"
"It certainly sounded like snapping to
me," she said, with some annoyance.
Christensen took a deep pull of his bour-
bon -and -water and gave her a long, steady
look. She met his gaze imperturbably. She
looked composed, amused, and very, very
tough. After a time, when some of the red
haze of irrational anger and fatigue had
cleared from his mind, he said quietly, "I
had about four hours' sleep last night, and
I wasn't expecting art envoy from Monterey
today. I'm tired and edgy, and if I sounded
impatient or harsh or snappish, I'm sorry."
"It's all right. I understand."
"Another bourbon or two and I'll be prop-
erly unwound " He held his empty glass
toward the hovering waiter. 'A refill for you,
too?" he asked her.
"Yes. Please." In a formal tone she said,
"Is the Emperor in good health?"
"Mot bad. He hasn't really been well for
a couple of years, but he's holding his own.
And President Morgan?"
"Fine," she said. "Hunting wild boar in
Big Sur this week."
'A nice life it must be. President of Mon-
terey. I've always liked Monterey. So much
quieter and cleaner and more sensible
down there than in San Francisco."
"Too quiet sometimes I envy you the ex-
"Yes, of course. The rapes, the mug-
gings, the arson, the mass meetings, the
race wars, the—"
"Please," she said gently.
He realized he had begun to rant. There
was a throbbing behind his eyes. Reworked
to gain control of himself.
"Did my voice get too loud?"
"You must be terribly tired. Look, we can
confer in the morning, if you'd prefer. It isn't
that urgent. Suppose we have dinner and
not talk politics at all, and get rooms here,
and tomorrow after breakfast we can — "
"No," Christensen said. "My nerves are
a little ragged, that's all. But I'll try to be
more civil. And I'd rather not wait until to-
morrow to find out what this is all about.
Suppose you give me a precis of it now,
and if it sounds too complicated, I'll sleep
on it and we can discuss it in detail to-
"All right." She put her drink down and
sat quite still, as if arranging her thoughts.
At length she said, "The Republic of Mon-
terey maintains close ties with the Free State
of Mendocino. I understand that Mendo-
cino and the Empire broke off relations a
little while back."
'A fishing dispute, nothing major."
"But you have no direct contact with them
right now. Therefore this should come as
news to you. The Mendocino people have
learned, and have communicated to our
representative there, that an invasion of San
Francisco is imminent."
Christensen blinked twice. "By whom?"
"The Realm of Wicca," she said.
"Flying down trom Oregon on their
"Please. I'm being serious."
"Unless things have changed up there,"
Christensen said, "the Realm of Wicca is
nonviolent, like all the neopagan states. As
I understand it, they tend their farms and
practice their little pagan rituals and do a
lot of dancing around the Maypole and
chanting and screwing. You expect me to
believe that a bunch of gentle, goofy witch-
es are going to make war on the Empire?"
She said, "Not war. An invasion."
"One of their high priests has pro-
claimed San Francisco a holy place and
has instructed them to come down here
and build a Stonehenge in Golden Gate
Park in time for proper celebration of the
winter solstice. There are at least a quarter
of a million neopagans in the Willamette
Valley, and more than half of them are ex-
pected to take part. According to our Men-
docino man, the migration has already be-
gun and thousands of Wiccans are spread
out between Mount Shasta and Ukiah right
now. The solstice is only seven weeks away.
The Wiccans may be gentle, but you're
going to have a hundred fifty thousand of
them in San Francisco by the end of the
month, pitching tents all over town."
"Holy Jesus," Christensen muttered.
"Can you feed that many strangers? Can
you find room for them? Will San Francis-
cans meet them with open arms? Do you
think it'll be a love festival?"
"It'll be a fucking massacre," Christen-
sen said tonelessly.
"Yes. The witches may be nonviolent, but
they know how to practice self-defense.
Once they're attacked, there'll be rivers of
blood, and it won't all be Wiccan blood."
Christensen's head was pounding again.
She was absolutely right: chaos, strife,
bloodshed. And a merry Christmas to all.
He rubbed his aching forehead, turned
away from her. and stared out at the deep-
ening twilight and the sparkling lights of
the city on the other side of the bay. A bleak,
bitter depression was taking hold of his
spirit. He signaled for another round of
drinks. Then he said slowly, "They can't be
allowed to enter the city. We'll need to close
the imperial frontier and turn them back
before they get as far as Santa Rosa. Let
them build their goddamned Stonehenge
in Sacramento if they like." His eyes flick-
ered. He started to assemble ideas. "The
Empire might just have enough troops to
contain the Wiccans by itself, but I think
this is best handled as a regional problem.
We'll call in forces from our allies as far out
as Petaluma and Napa and Palo Alto. I don't
imagine we can expect much help from
the Free State or from San Jose. And of
course Monterey isn't much of a military
power, but still — "
"We are willing to help," Ms. Sawyer said.
"To what extent?"
"We aren't set up for much actual war-
fare, but we have access to our own alli-
ances from Salinas down to Paso Robles.
and we could call up, say, five thousand
troops all told. Would that help?"
"That would help," Christensen said.
"It shouldn't be necessary for there to
be any combat. With the imperial border
sealed and troops posted along the line
from Guerneville to Sacramento, the Wic-
cans won't force the issue. They'll revise
their revelation and celebrate the solstice
"Yes," he said, "I think you're right." He
leaned toward her and asked, "Why is
Monterey willing to help us?"
"We have problems of our own brew-
ing — with San Jose. If we are seen making
a conspicuous gesture of solidarity with the
Empire, it might discourage San Jose from
proceeding with its notion of annexing Santa
Cruz. That amounts to an act of war against
us. Surely San Jose isn't interested in mak-
ing any moves that will bring the Empire
down on its back."
She wasn't subtle, but she was effective.
Quid pro quo. we help you keep the witches
out, you help us keep San Jose in line, and
at! remains well without a shot being fired.
These goddamned little nations.be thought,
these absurd jerkwater sovereignties, with
their wars and alliances and shifting con-
federations. It was like a game, like play-
ground politics. Except that it was real. What
had fallen apart was not going to be put
back together, not (or a long while, and this
miniaturized Wettpolitik was the realest
reality there was just now. At least things
were saner in Northern California than they
were down south, where Los Angeles was
gobbling everything and there were ru-
mors that Pasadena had the Bomb. No-
body had to contend with that up here.
Christensen said. "I'll have to propose
all this to the Defense Ministry, of course.
And get the Emperor's approval. But ba-
sically I agree with your thinking."
"I'm so pleased."
'And I'm very glad that you took the trou-
ble to travel up from Monterey to make these
matters clear to us."
"Merely a case of enlightened self-inter-
est," Ms. Sawyer said.
"Mmm. Yes." He found himself studying
the sharp planes of her cheekbones, the
delicate arch of her eyebrows. Mot only was
she cool and competent, Christensen
thought, but now that the business part of
their meeting was over, he was coming to
notice that she was a very attractive woman
and that he was not as tired as he had
thought he was. Did international politics
allow room for a little recreational hanky-
panky? Melternich hadn't jumped into bed
with Talleyrand, nor Kissinger with Indira
Gandhi, but times had changed, after all,
and— no. No. He choked off that entire line
of thought. In these shabby days they might
all be children playing at being grown-ups.
but nevertheless international politics still
had its code, and this was a meeting ot
diplomats, not a blind date or a singles-
bar pickup. You will steep in your own bed
tonight, he told himself, and you will sleep
All the same he said. "It's past six o'clock.
Shall we have dinner together before I go
back to the city?"
"I'd love to."
"I don't know much about Berkeley res-
taurants. We're probably better off eating
"I think that's best," she said.
They were the only ones in the hotel's
enormous dining room, A staff of three
waited on them as if they were the most
important people who had ever dined there.
And dinner turned out to be quite decent,
he thought— calamari and abalone and
sand dabs and grilled thresher shark,
washed down with a dazzling bottle of Napa
Chardonnay. Even though ihe world had
ended, it remained possible to eat very well
in the Bay Area, and Ihe breakdown of so-
ciety had not only reduced maritime pol-
lution but also made local seafood much
more readily available for local consump-
tion. There wasn't much of an export trade
possible with eleven heavily guarded na-
tional boundaries and eleven sets of cus-
toms barriers between San Francisco and
Dinner conversation was light, re-
laxed — diplomatic chitchat, gossip about
events in remote territories, reports about
the Voodoo principality expanding out of
New Orleans and the Sioux conquests in
Wyoming and the Prohibition War now going
on in what used to be Kentucky. There was
a bison herd again on the Great Plains, she
said, close to a million head. He told her
what he had heard about the Suicide Peo-
ple, who ruled between San Diego and Ti-
juana, and about King Barnum & Bailey III,
who governed in northern Florida with the
aid of a court of circus freaks. She smiled
and said. "How can they tell the freaks from
the ordinary people? The whole world's a
circus now. isn't it?"
He shook his head and replied. "No. a
zoo." and he beckoned the waiter for more
wine. He did not ask her about internal
matters in Monterey, and she tactfully
stayed away from the domestic problems
of the Empire of San Francisco. He was
feeling easy, buoyant a little drunk, more
than a little drunk; to have to answer ques-
tions now about the little rebellion that had
been suppressed in Sausalito or the
secessionist thing in Walnut Creek would
be a bringdown, and bad for the digestion.
About half past eight he said, "You aren'i
going back to Monterey tonight, are you?"
"God, no! It's a five-hour drive, assuming
no more troubles with the San Jose High-
way Patrol, And the road's so bad below
Watsonville that only a lunatic would drive it
at night. I'll stay here at the Claremont."
"Good. Let me put it on the imperial ac-
count," he said.
"That isn't necessary. We — "
"The hotel is always glad to oblige the
government and its guests,"
Ms, Sawyer shrugged. "Very well. Well
reciprocate when you come to Monterey."
And then her manner suddenly changed.
She shifted in her seat and fidgeted and
played with her silverware, looking awk-
ward and ill at ease. Some new and big
topic was obviously about to be intro-
duced, and Christensen guessed thai she
was going to ask him to spend the night
with her. In a fraction of a second he ran
Ihrough all the possible merits and de-
merits of that, and came out on the plus
side, and had his answer ready when she
said, "Tom, can I ask a big favor?"
Which threw him completely off balance.
Whatever was coming, it certainly wasn't
what he was expecting.
"I'll do my best."
"I'd like an audience with the Emperor."
"Not on official business. I know the Em-
peror talks business only wifh his ministers
and privy councillors. But 1 want to see him.
that's all." Color came to her cheeks.
"Doesn't it sound silly? But it's something
I've always dreamed of, a kind of adoles-
cent fantasy. To be in San Francisco, to be
shown into the imperial throne room, to kiss
his ring, all that pomp and circumstance.
I want it, Tom. Just to be there, to see him.
Do you think you could manage that?"
He was astounded. The facade of cool,
tough competence had dropped away from
her, revealing unanticipated absurdity. He
did not know what to answer.
She said. "Monterey's such a poky little
place. It's just a town. We call ourselves a
republic, but we aren't much of anything.
And I call myself a senator and a diplomat,
but I've never really been anywhere San
Francisco two or three limes when I was a
girl. San Jose a few times. My mother was
in Los Angeles once, but I haven't been
anywhere. And to go home saying that I
had seen the Emperor — " Her eyes spar-
kled, "You're really taken aback, aren't you?
You thought I was all ice and microproces-
sors, and instead I'm only a hick, right? But
you're being very nice. You aren't even
laughing at me. Will you get me an audi-
ence with the Emperor for tomorrow?"
"I thought you were afraid to go into San
She looked abashed. "That was just a
ploy. To make you come over here, to get
you to take me seriously and put yourself
out a little. Diplomatic wiles. Im sorry abou!
that. The word was that you were snotty, that
you had to be met with strength or you'd be
impossible to deal with. But you aren't like
that at all. Tom, I want to see the Emperor.
He does give audiences, doesn't he?"
"In a manner of speaking. I suppose it
could be done."
"Oh. would you? Tomorrow?"
"Why wait for tomorrow?"
"Are you being sarcastic?"
"Not at all." Christensen said, "This is
San Francisco. The Emperor keeps weird
hours just like the rest of us. I'll phone over
there and see if we can be received." He
hesitated. "I'm afraid it won't be what you're
"What do you mean? In what way?"
"The pomp, the circumstance. You're
going to be disappointed. You may be bet-
ter off not meeting him, actually.' Stick to
your fantasy of imperial majesty. Seriously,
I'll get you an audience if you insist, but I
don't think it's a great idea."
"Can you be more specific?"
"I still want to see him. Regardless."
He left the dining room and, with mis-
givings, began arranging things. The tele-
phone system was working sluggishly that
evening, and it took him fifteen minutes to
set the whole thing up, but there were no
serious obstacles. He returned to her and
said, "The ferry will pick us up at the mari-
na in about an hour. There'll be a car wait-
ing on the San Francisco side. The Em-
peror will be available for viewing around
midnight. I tell you that you're not going to
enjoy this. The Emperor is old, and he's
been sick; he isn't a very interesting per-
son to meet, as I'm sure you would agree."
"All the same," she said. "The one thing
I wanted, when I volunteered to be the en-
voy, was an imperial audience. Please don't
'As you wish. Shall we have another
"How about these?" She produced an
enameled cigarette case. "Humboldt
County's finest. Gift of the Free State."
He smiled and nodded and took the joint
from her. It was elegantly manufactured,
fine cockleshell paper, gold monogram,
igniter cap, even a filter. Everything else
has come apart, he thought, but the tech-
nology of marijuana is at its highest point
in history. He flicked the cap, took a deep
drag, passed it to her The effect was in-
stantaneous, a new high cutting through
the wooze of bourbon and wine and brandy
already in his brain, clearing it. expanding
his limp and sagging soul. When they were
finished with it, they floated out of the hotel.
His driver and hers were still waiting in the
parking lot. Christensen dismissed his, and
they took the Republic of Monterey car
down the slopes of Berkeley to the marina.
The boat from San Francisco was late. They
stood around shivering at the ferry slip for
twenty minutes, peering bleakly across at
the glittering lights of the far-off city. Nei-
ther of them was dressed for the nighttime
chill, and he was tempted to pull her close
and hold her in his arms, but he did not.
There was a boundary he was not yet will-
ing to cross. Hell, he thought, I don't even
know her first name.
It was nearly eleven by the time they
reached San Francisco.
An ofticial car was parked at the pier.
The driver hopped out, saluting, bustling
about — one of those preposterous little civil-
service types, doubtless keenly honored
to be taxiing bigwigs around late at night.
He wore the red-and-gold uniform of the
imperial dragoons, a little frayed at one el-
bow. The car coughed and sputtered and
reluctantly lurched into life, up Market Street
to Van Ness and then north to the palace.
Ms. Sawyer's eyes were wide, and she
stared at the ancient high-rises along Van
Ness as if they were cathedrals.
When they came to the Civic Center area,
she gasped, obviously overwhelmed by the
majesty of everything, the shattered hulk
of the Symphony Hall, the Museum of Mod-
ern Art, the great dome of City Hall, and
the Imperial Palace itself, awesome, im-
posing, a splendid, many-columned build-
ing that long ago had been the War Me-
morial Opera House. With the envoy from
the Republic of Monterey at his elbow.
Christensen marched up the steps ol the
palace and through the center doors into
the lobby, where a great many ot the rank-
ing ministers and plenipotentiaries of the
Empire were assembled. "How absolutely
marvelous." Ms. Sawyer murmured. Smil-
ing graciously, bowing, nodding, Christen-
sen pointed out the notables, the defense
minister, the minister of finance, the min-
ister of suburban affairs, the chief justice,
the minister of transportation.
Precisely at midnight there was a grand
flourish of trumpets and the door to the
throne room opened. Christensen offered
Ms. Sawyer his arm; together they made
the long journey down the center aisle and
up the ramp to the stage, where the im-
perial Ihrone. a resplendent thing of rhine-
stones and foil, glittered brilliantly under
the spotlights. Ms. Sawyer was wonder-
struck. She pointed toward the six gigantic
portraits suspended high over the stage
and whispered a question, and Christen-
sen replied. "The first six emperors. And
here comes the seventh one."
"Oh." she gasped. But was it awe. sur-
prise, or disgust?
He was in his full regalia, the scarlet robe,
the bright green tunic with ermine trim, the
gold chains. But he was wobbly and tot-
tering, a clumsy, staggering figure, gray-
faced and feeble, supported on one side
by Mike Schiff. the Imperial Chamberlain,
and on the other by the Grand Sergeanl-
at-Arms. Terry Coleman. He was not so
much leaning on them as being dragged
by them. Bringing up the rear of the
procession were two sleek, pretty boys,
one black and one Chinese, carrying the
orb, the scepter, and the massive crown.
Ms. Sawyer's fingers tightened on Chris-
tensen's forearm, and he heard her catch
her breath as the Emperor, in the process
of being lowered into his throne, went
boneless and nearly spilled to the floor.
Somehow the Imperial Chamberlain and
the Grand Sergeant-at-Arms settled him
properly in place, balanced the crown on
his head, and stuffed the orb and scepter
into his trembling hands. "His Imperial
Majesty, Norton the Seventh of San Fran-
cisco!" cried Mike Schiff in a magnificent
voice that went booming up to the highest
balcony. The Emperor giggled.
"Come on," Christensen whispered and
led her forward.
The old man was really in terrible shape.
It was weeks since Christensen had last
seen him, and by now he looked like some-
thing dragged from the crypt, slack-jawed,
drooling, vacant-eyed, utterly burned out.
The envoy from Monterey seemed to draw
back, tense and rigid, repelled, unable or
unwilling to go closer but Christensen per-
sisted, urging her onward until she was no
more than a dozen feet from the throne. A
sickly-sweet, vaguely familiar odor ema-
nated from the old man.
"What do I do?" she asked, panicking.
"When I introduce you. go forward, curt-
sey if you know how. touch ihe orb. Then
step back. That's all
Christensen said. Your Maiesty. the am-
bassador from the Republic of Monterey.
Senator Sawyer, to pay her respects."
Trembling, she went to him. curtseyed,
touched the orb As she backed away, she
nearly fell, but Christensen came smoothly
forward and steadied her. The Emperor
giggled again, a shrill, horrific cackle
Slowly, carefully. Christensen guided the
shaken Ms. Sawyer from the stage.
"How long has he been like that?"
"Two years, three, maybe more. Com-
pletely senile. Not even housebroken any-
more. You could probably tell. I'm sorry. I
told you you'd be better off skipping this.
I'm enormously sorry. Ms.— Ms— what's
your first name, anyway?"
"Let's get out ol here. Elaine. Yes?"
clambering up onto the stage now. one with
a guitar, one with juggler's clubs. The im-
perial giggle pierced the air again and
again, becoming rasping and wild. The im-
perial levee would go on half the night. Em-
peror Norton VII was one of San Francis-
cos most popular amusements.
"Now you know." Christensen said.
"How does the Empire function, if the
Emperor is crazy?"
"We manage. We do our best without
him. The Romans managed it with Caligula.
Norton's not half as bad as Caligula Not a
tenth. Will you tell everyone in Monterey?"
"I think not, We believe in the power of
the Empire and in the grandeur of the Em-
peror. Best not to disturb that faith."
"Quite right," said Christensen,
They emerged into the clear, cold night.
Christensen said. "I'll ride back to Ihe
ferry slip with you before I go home."
"Where do you live?"
"Out near Golden Gate Park,"
She looked up at him and moistened her
lips. "I don't want to ride across the bay in
the dark, alone, at this hour of the night. Is
it all right if I go home with you?'
"Sure." he said.
They got into the car. "Frederick Street."
he told the driver, "between Clayton and
The Irip took twenty minutes. Neither of
them spoke. He knew what she was think-
ing about: Ihe senile Emperor, dribbling and
babbling under the bright spotlights. The
mighty Norton VII. ruler of everything from
San Rafael to San Mateo, from Half Moon
Bay to Walnut Creek. Such is pomp and
circumstance in imperial San Francisco in
these latter days of Western civilization.
Christensen sent the driver away, and they
went upstairs. The cats were hungry again.
"It's a lovely apartment," she told him.
"Three rooms, bath, hot and cold run-
ning water. Not bad for a mere foreign min-
ister. Some of the boys have suites at the
palace, but I like it belter here." He opened
the door to the deck and stepped outside.
Somehow, now that he was home. Ihe night
was not so cold. He thought about the
Realm ot Wicca, far off up there in green,
happy Oregon, sending a hundred fifty
thousand kindly goddess-worshiping neo-
pagans down here to celebrate the rebirth
of the sun. A nuisance, a mess, a head-
ache. Tomorrow he'd have to call a meet-
ing of the Cabinet, when everybody had
sobered up. and start the wheels turning,
and probably he'd have to make trips to
places like Petaluma and Palo Alto to get
the alliance flanged together. Damn. But it
was his job. Someone had to carry Ihe load.
He slipped his arm around the slender
woman from Monterey.
"The poor Emperor." she said softly
"Yes." he agreed. "The poor Emperor.
He looked toward the east. In a few hours
the sun would be coming up over that hill,
out of the place that used to be the United
States ol America and now was a thou-
sand, thousand crazy, fractured, frag-
mented entities. Christensen shook his
head. The Grand Duchy of Chicago, he
thought. The Holy Carolina Confederation.
The Three Kingdoms of New York The Em-
pire of San Francisco. No use getting up-
set — much too late for getting upset. You
played the hand that was dealt you. and
you did your best, and you carved little
islands of safety out of the night. Turning
to her. he said. "I'm glad you came home
with me tonight " He brushed his lips lightly
against hers. "Come. Let's go inside."
AN APPRECIATION BY HARLAN ELLISON
More brightly than any other writer working in the genre ot
imaginative literature, Robert Silverberg reflects the con-
science of our limes.
Beginning his career in the fifties. Silverberg was a perfect
manifestation both of the emergence of science fiction as a
legitimate art form and the prevailing altitude of young peo-
ple in America that success was the primary goal for an
artist. If his early work is marked by a cool intelligence and
an emphasis on solving the puzzle-problems se! up by plot,
it is likely as much a resonance with that period in our recent
history when distancing from social commitment was the or-
der of the day as it was the influence of John W. Campbell,
who, as the most prominent editor of his era, set ihe param-
eters of the genre as consistent wilh his own concerns.
But in the mid- to late-sixties, beginning with such novels
as Thorns, Nightwings, The Masks of Time, Up ihe Line, and
The Man in the Maze, Silverberg's legendary prolificify was
turned almosl feverishly to reinterpretaiions of the effects on
human beings of runaway technology in a world whose soul
was in peril. In those novels and the uncounted short stories
that filled the chinks in the wall of oeuvre he was creating.
Silverberg began to reach out through the veil of his intellec-
tual solitude to touch that universal human spirit all serious
artists must, inevitably, come to grips with.
From 1970 to 1974. a time of upheaval and metamorphosis
in America. Silverberg's work reflected Ihe angst and morlal
dreads of the world around him. Massive changes over a
decade had altered his view of his species, and of himself:
and Ihe work deall more impressively than that of any other
writer of the time with the great questions we had begun
to ask ourselves. Downward to the Earth, The World Inside.
Tower of Glass. Son of Man. A Time Of Changes. Dying Inside.
and The Stochastic Man— among a flood of others-
became deeply troubling icons for a generation of readers
learning not only to live decently in their own skins, but who
were at last coming to realize they were part of a human
chain, each link of which was commanded to ask for whom
the bell tolls.
In 1974 Silverberg was lashed into a realization that being
poini man for the human condition can be dangerous in (he
extreme. With the end of the Vietnam War. the Watergate
scandal, the years of civil unrest rumbling to a close, America
sought surcease Weary from a decade of Hying to reestab-
lish pride in being a nation flawed but essentially humane,
exhausted from the day-after-day struggle to banish the
monsters in our midst. America fell gladly into the arms of
trivial art: and the fickle audience decided it could not handle
the deep-breathing demands Silverberg's uncompromising
work placed on them Turning their eyes back to what seemed
(foolishly) an idyllic time, the audience wallowed in escapism
of a sorl lhat excluded the nourishmenl of spirit, the demand
for persona! responsibility. Silverberg proffered.
And so he went away. For five years he was not heard
from, and the empty dreams of elfin creatures and unicorns
held sophomoric sway over Silverberg's former constituency.
Those who knew him intimately were not insensitive to his
pain. He went to the earth and he dined well and he main-
tained close friendships: but despite the sheen of compla-
cency and comfort, it was obvious the surface was pitted
with anguish. Beyond the gate there was only silence.
But as the times send some great artists underground to
replenish their energies — often against their will — so Ihe
pressures of a changing world call those readers of the runes
back when their time is come again. And as the eighties
dawned. Silverberg made his resurgence Invigorated, re-
newed, at once more thoughtful and more vulnerable, per-
haps more human at having discovered he was not beyond
the reach of rust, he has returned to the world of imaginative
literature stronger and more important to our needs.
Reflecting in his ipseity a thirty-year history of science fic-
tion, and the scarred American character. Robert Silverberg
returns to us larger than at his beginning or his leave-taking;
wiser and more decent. Able to tell us thai even when dark
wings close down Ihe sky, that the human spirit will prevail
. . . il we but accept our kinship with seas and stones and
the ghosts of our past.
he first volume of The Best of
Omni Science Fiction was published in April 1980. Its success and that
of volume two suggested that vast numbers of new readers were being
introduced to the subject. To give this growing audience a sense of
literary perspective, a program of publishing SF classics was begun.
Thus, in volume three appeared "The Cure" by Lewis Padgett (a pseu-
donym of Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore). It had been first published in
1945 in Astounding Science Fiction.
For volume four there were two classics: "Fondly Fahrenheit," ranked
among the very greatest SF stories and first published in 1954, by Alfred
Bester and "My Lady of the Psychiatric Sorrows," a poignant, post-
holocaust piece first published in 1977, by Brian Aldiss.
The idea has seemed such a good one that for this volume, once
again, two classics are presented. They are "Helen O'Loy" (1938), a
story of boy makes android, by Lester del Rey and "Down There"
(1973), a clever encapsulation of the conflict between dehumanization
and passion, by Damon Knight.
For those stimulated by these stories to the extent that they wish to
pursue readings in the SF canon further, there are several paperback
anthologies. Among them are two four-volume sets — The Road to Sci-
ence Fiction (Mentor, New American Library) edited and annotated by
James Gunn and The Science Fiction Hall of Fame (Avon) edited var-
iously by Robert Silverberg, Ben Bova, Arthur C. Clarke and George
W. Proctor. An excellent companion to these anthologies is A Reader's
Guide to Science Fiction (Facts on File) edited by Baird Searles, et al.
Since artwork is and has been so important to science fiction, this
classic section features a pictorial by Chesley Bonestell. He is renowned
for his space paintings, many of which appeared as illustrations for
covers of SF magazines. The pictorial reprinted here originally ap-
peared in the February 1980 issue of Omni.
He tried to stop her from kissing
him . . . but she was powered by an atomotor
BY LESTER DEL REY
I am an old man now. but I can still see
Helen as Dave unpacked her, and still hear
him gasp as he looked her over.
"Man, isn't she a beauty?"
She was beautiful, a dream in spun plas-
tics and metals, something Keats might
have seen dimly when he wrote his sonnet.
If Helen of Troy had looked like that, the
Greeks must have been pikers when they
launched only a thousand ships; at least.
that's what I told Dave.
"Helen ot Troy, eh?" He looked at her
tag. 'At least it beats this thing— K2W88.
Helen . . . Mmmm . . . Helen of Alloy."
"Not much swing to that, Dave. Too many
unstressed syllables in the middle. How
about Helen O'Loy?"
"Helen O'Loy she is. Phil." And that's how
it began — one part beauty, one part dream,
one part science; add a stereo broadcast,
stir mechanically, and the result is chaos.
Dave and I hadn't gone to college to-
gether, but when I came to Messina to
practice medicine, I found him downstairs
in a little robot repair shop. After that, we
began to pal around, and when I started
going with one twin, he found the other
equally attractive, so we made it a pleas-
When our business grew better, we
rented a house near the rocket field — noisy
but cheap, and the rockets discouraged
apartment building. We like room enough
to stretch ourselves. I suppose, if we hadn't
quarreled with them, we'd have married
the twins in time. But Dave wanted to look
over the latest Venus-rocket attempt when
his twin wanted to see a display stereo
starring Larry Ainslee, and they were both
stubborn. From then on, we forgot the girls
PAINTING BY GERARD DI-MACCIO
and spent our evenings at home.
But it wasn't until Lena put vanilla on our
steak instead of salt that we got off on the
subject of emotions and robots. While Dave
was dissecting Lena to find the trouble, we
naturally mulled over the future of the
mechs. He was sure that the robots would
beat men some day, and I couldn't see it.
"Look here, Dave," I argued. "You know
Lena doesn't think— not really. When those
wires crossed, she could have corrected
herself. But she didn't bother; she followed
the mechanical impulse. A man might have
reached for the vanilla, but when he saw it
in his hand, he'd have stopped. Lena has
sense enough, but she has no emotions,
no consciousness of self."
"All right, that's the big trouble with the
mechs now. But we'll get around it, put in
some mechanical emotions, or some-
thing." He screwed Lena's head back on,
turned on her juice."Go back to work, Lena,
it's nineteen o'clock."
Now I specialized in endocrinology and
related subjects. I wasn't exactly a psy-
chologist, but I did understand the glands,
secretions, hormones, and miscellanies that
are the physical causes of emotions. It took
medical science three hundred years to
find out how and why they worked, and I
couldn't see men duplicating them me-
chanically in much less time.
I brought home books and papers to
prove it, and Dave quoted the invention of
memory coils and veritoid eyes. During that
year we swapped knowledge until Dave
knew the whole theory of endocrinology,
and I could have made Lena from memory.
The more we talked, the less sure I grew
about the impossibility of Homo mecha-
nensis as the attainable, perfect type.
Poor Lena. Her cuproberyl body spent
half its lime in scattered pieces. Our first
attempts were successful only in getting
her to serve fried brushes for breaklast and
wash the dishes in oleo oil. Then one day
she cooked a perfect dinner with six wires
crossed, and Dave was in ecstasy.
He worked all night on her wiring, put in
a new coil, and taught her a fresh set of
words. And the next day she flew into a
tantrum and swore vigorously at us when
we told her she wasn't doing her work right.
"It's a lie," she yelled, shaking a suction
brush. "You're all liars. If you so-and-so's
would leave me whole long enough. I might
gel something done around the place."
When we calmed her temper and got
her back to work, Dave ushered me into
the study. "Not taking any chances with
Lena," he explained. "We'll have to cut out
that adrenal pack and restore her to nor-
malcy. But we've got to get a better robot.
A housemaid mech isn't complex enough."
"How about Dillard's new utility models?
They seem to combine everything in one."
"Exactly. Even so, we'll need a special
one built to order, with a full range of mem-
ory coils. And out of respect to old Lena,
let's get a female case for iis works."
The result, of course, was Helen. The
Dillard people had performed a miracle and
put all the works in a girl-modeled case.
Even the plastic and mbberite face was
designed tor flexibility to express emo-
tions, and she was complete with tear
glands and taste buds, ready to simulate
every human action, from breathing to
pulling hair. The bill they sent with her was
another miracle, but Dave and I scraped it
together; we had to turn Lena over to an
exchange to complete it, though, and
thereafter we ate out.
I'd performed plenty of delicate opera-
lions on living tissues, and some of them
had been tricky, but I still felt like a premed
student as we opened the front plate of her
torso and began to sever the leads of her
"nerves." Dave's mechanical glands were
all prepared, complex little bundles of ra-
dio tubes and wires that heterodyned on
the electrical thought impulses and dis-
torted them as adrenaline distorts the re-
action of human minds.
Instead of sleeping that night, we pored
over the schematic diagrams of her struc-
tures, tracing the thoughts through mazes
of her wiring, severing the leaders, im-
planting the heterones, as Dave called
them. And while we worked, a mechanical
tape fed carefully prepared thoughts of
consciousness and awareness of life and
feeling into an auxiliary memory coil. Dave
believed in leaving nothing to chance.
It was growing light as we finished, ex-
hausted and exultant. All that remained was
the starting of her electrical power; like all
the Dillard mechs. she was equipped with
a tiny atomotor instead of batteries, and
once started would need no further atten-
tion in that regard.
Dave refused to turn her on. "Wait until
we've slept and rested," he advised "I'm
as eager to try her as you are, but we can't
do much studying with our minds half dead.
Turn in, and we'll leave Helen until later"
Even fhough we were both reluctant to
follow it, we knew the idea was sound. We
turned in, and sleep hit us before the air-
conditioner could cut down to sleeping
temperature. And then Dave was pound-
ing on my shoulders.
"Phil! Hey, snap out of it!"
I groaned, turned over, and faced him.
"Well? . . . Uh! What is it? Did Helen—"
"No, it's old Mrs. van Styler. She visored
to say her son has an intatuation for a ser-
vant girl, and she wants you to come out
and give counter-hormones. They're at the
summer camp in Maine."
Rich Mrs. van Styler! I couldn't afford io
let that account down, now that Helen had
used up the last of my funds. But it wasn't
a job I cared for.
"Counter-hormones! That'll lake two
weeks' full time. Anyway. I'm no society
doctor, messing with glands to keep tools
happy. My job's taking care of serious
"And you want to watch Helen," Dave
was grinning, but he was serious, too. "I
told her it'd cost her fifty thousand!"
"And she said okay, if you hurried."
Of course, there was only one thing to
do, though I could have wrung fat Mrs. van
Styler's neck cheerfully. It wouldn't have
happened if she'd used robots like every-
one else — but she had to be different.
Consequently, while Dave was back
home puttering with Helen, I was racking
my brain to trick Archy van Styler into get-
ting the counter-hormones, and giving the
servant girl the same. Oh, I wasn't sup-
posed to, but the poor kid was crazy about
Archy. Dave might have written, I thought,
but never a word did I gel.
It was three weeks later instead of two
when I reported that Archy was "cured,"
and collected on the line. With that money
in my pocket, I hired a personal rocket and
was back in Messina in half an hour. I didn't
waste time in reaching the house.
As I stepped into the alcove, I heard a
light patter of feet, and an eager voice called
out, "Dave, dear?" For a minute I couldn't
answer, and the voice came again, plead-
I don't know what I expected, but I didn't
expect Helen to meet me that way, stop-
ping and staring at me, obvious disap-
pointment on her lace, little hands flutter-
ing up against her breast.
"Oh," she cried. "I thought it was Dave.
He hardly comes home to eat now, but I've
had supper wailing hours." She dropped
her hands and managed a smile. "You're
Phil, aren't you? Dave told me about you
when ... at first. I'm so glad to see you
"Glad to see you doing so well, Helen."
Now what does one say for light conver-
sation with a robot? "You said something
"Oh, yes. I guess Dave ate downtown
again, so we might as well go in. It'll be
nice having someone to talk to around the
house, Phil. You don't mind if I call you Phil.
do you? You know, you're sort of a god-
father to me."
We ate. I hadn't counted on such be-
havior, but apparently she considered eat-
ing as normal as walking. She didn't do
much eating, at that; most of the time she
spent staring at the front door.
Dave came in as we were finishing, a
frown a yard wide on his face. Helen started
to rise, but he ducked toward the stairs,
throwing words over his shoulder.
"Hi, Phil. See you up here later."
There was something radically wrong with
him. For a moment, I'd thought his eyes
were haunted, and as I turned to Helen,
hers were filling with tears. She gulped,
choked them back, and fell to viciously on
"What's the matter with him . . . and you?"
"He's sick of me." She pushed her plate
away and got up hastily. "You'd better see
him while I clean up. And there's nothing
wrong with me. And it's not my fault, any-
way." She grabbed the dishes and ducked
into the kitchen: I could have sworn she
Maybe all thought is a series of condi-
tioned reflexes — but she certainly had
picked up a lot of conditioning while I was
gone. Lena in her heyday had been noth-
fng like this. I went up lo see if Dave could
make any sense out of the hodgepodge.
He was squirting soda into a large glass
of apple brandy, and I saw that the bolile
was nearly empty. 'Join me?" he asked.
It seemed like a good idea. The roaring
blast of a rocket overhead was the only
familiar thing left in the house. From the
look around Dave's eyes, it wasn't the first
bottle he'd emptied while I was gone, and
there were more left. He dug out a new
bottle for his own drink.
"Of course, it's none of my business.
Dave, but that stuff won't steady your nerves
any. What's gotten into you and Helen?
Been seeing ghosts?"'
Helen was wrong; he hadn't been eating
downtown — nor anywhere else. His mus-
cles collapsed into a chair in a way that
spoke of fatigue and nerves, but mostly of
hunger. "You noticed it, eh?"
"Noticed it? The two of you jammed it
down my throat."
"Uhmmm." He swatted at a nonexistent
fly, and slumped further down in the pneu-
matic. "Guess maybe I should have wailed
with Helen until you got back. But if that
slereocasl hadn't changed . . . anyway, it
did. And those mushy books of yours fin-
ished the job."
"Thanks. That makes it all clear."
"You know, Phil, I've got a place up in
the country . . . fruit ranch. My dad left it
to me. Think I'll look il over."
And that's the way it went. But finally, by
much liquor and more perspiration, I got
some of the story out of him before I gave
him an amytal and put him to bed. Then I
hunted up Helen and dug the rest of the
story from her, until it made sense.
Apparently as soon as I was gone, Dave
had turned her on and made preliminary
tests, which were entirely satisfactory. She
had reacled beautifully — so well that he
decided to leave her and go down to work
Naturally, with all her untried emotions,
she was filled with curiosity, and wanted
him to stay Then he had an inspiration.
After showing her what her duties about
the house would be. he set her down in
front of the stereovisor, tuned in a travel-
ogue, and left her to occupy her time with
looking at it.
The travelogue held her attention until it
was finished, and the station switched over
to a current serial with Larry Ainslee. the
same cute emoter who'd given us all the
trouble with the twins. Incidentally, he looked
something like Dave did in a vague way.
Helen took to the serial like a seal to water.
This playacting was a perfect outlet for her
newly excited emotions. When that partic-
ular episode tinished. she found a love story
on another station, and added still more to
her education. The afternoon programs
were mostly news and music, but by then
she'd found my books; and I do have rather
adolescent taste in literature.
Dave came home in the best of spirits.
The front alcove was neatly swept, and there
was the odor of food in the air that he'd
missed around the house for weeks. He
had visions ot Helen as the super-efficient
So it was a shock to him lo feel two strong
arms around his neck from behind and hear
a voice all aquiver coo into his ears, "Oh,
Dave, darling, I've missed you so, and I'm
so thrilled that you're back." Helen's tech-
nique may have lacked polish, but it had
enthusiasm, as he found when he tried to
stop her from kissing him. She had learned
fast and furiously — also. Helen was pow-
ered by an atomotor.
Dave wasn't a prude, but he remem-
bered that she was only a robot, after all.
The fact that she felt, acted, and looked
like a young goddess in his arms didn't
mean much. With some effort, he untan-
gled her and dragged her off to supper,
where he made her eat with him to divert
After her evening work, he called her into
the study and gave her a thorough lecture
on the folly of her ways. It must have been
good, for it lasted three solid hours, and
covered her station in life, the idiocy of
stereos, and various other miscellanies.
When he finished, Helen looked up with
dewy eyes and said wistfully, "I know, Dave,
but I still love you."
That's when Dave starting drinking.
It grew worse each day. If he stayed
downtown, she was crying when he came
home. If he returned on time, she fussed
over him and threw herself at him. In his
room, with the door locked, he could hear
her downstairs pacing up and down and
muttering; and when he went down, she
stared at him reproachfully until he had to
go back up.
I sent Helen out on a fake errand in the
morning and got Dave up. With her gone,
I made him eat a decent breakfast and gave
him a tonic for his nerves. He was still list-
less and moody.
"Look here. Dave." t broke in on his
brooding. "Helen isn't human, after all. Why
not cut off her power and change a few
memory coils? then we can convince her
that she never was in love and couldn't get
"You try it. I had that idea, but she put
up a wail that would wake Homer. She says
it would be murder — and the hell of it is
that I can't help feeling the same about it
Maybe she isn't human, but you wouldn't
guess it when she puts on that martyred
look and tells you to go ahead and kill her."
"We never put in substitutes for some of
the secretions present in man during the
"I don't know what we put in. Maybe the
heterones backfired or something Any-
way, she's made this idea so much a part
of her thoughts that we'd have to put in a
whole new set of coils."
"Well, why not?"
"Go ahead. You're the surgeon of this
family. I'm not used to fussing with emo-
tions. Matter of fact, since she's been act-
ing this way, I'm beginning to hate work on
any robot. My business is going to blazes."
He saw Helen coming up the walk and
ducked out the backdoor for the monorail
express. I'd intended to put him back in
bed, but let him go. Maybe he'd be better
off at his shop than at home.
"Dave's gone?" Helen did have that
martyred look now.
"Yeah. I got him to eat, and he's gone to
"I'm glad he ate." She slumped down in
a chair as if she were worn out, though how
a mech could be tired beat me. "Phil?"
"Well, what is it?"
"Do you think I'm bad for him? I mean,
do you think he'd be happier if I weren't
"He'll go cra2y if you keep acting this
way around him."
She winced. Those little hands were
twisting about pleadingly, and I felt like an
inhuman brute. But I'd started, and I went
ahead. "Even if I cut out your power and
changed your coils, he'd probably still be
haunted by you."
"I know. But I can't help it. And I'd make
him a good wife. Really I would, Phil."
I gulped; this was getting a little too far.
'And give him strapping sons to boot, I
suppose. A man wants flesh and blood,
not rubber and metal."
"Don't, please! I can't think of myself that
way. To me. I'm a woman. And you know
perfectly I'm made to imitate a real woman
. . . in all ways. I couldn't give him sons.
but in every other way ... Id try so hard.
I know I'd make him a good wife."
I gave up.
Dave didn't come home that night, nor
the next day. Helen was fussing and fum-
ing, wanting me to call the hospitals and
the police, but 1 knew nothing had hap-
pened to him. He always carried identifi-
cation Still, when he didn't come on the
third day. I began to worry. And when Hel-
en started out for his shop, I agreed to go
Dave was there, with another man I didn't
know. I parked Helen where he couldn't
see her, but where she could hear, and
went in as soon as the other fellow left.
Dave looked a little better and seemed
glad to see me. "Hi, Phil — just closing up.
Let's go eat."
Helen couldn't hold back any longer, but
came trooping in. "Come on home. Dave.
I've got roast duck with spice stuffing, and
you know you love that."
"Scat!" said Dave. She shrank back,
turned to go. "Oh, all right, stay. You might
as well hear it. too. I've sold the shop. The
fellow you saw just bought it. and I'm going
up to the old fruit ranch I told you about,
Phil. I can't stand the mechs any more."
"You'll starve to death at that," I told him.
"No, there's a growing demand for old-
fashioned fruit, raised out of doors. People
are tired of this water-culture stuff. Dad al-
ways made a living out of it. I'm leaving as
soon as I can get home and pack."
Helen clung to her idea "I'll pack. Dave,
while you eat. I've got apple cobbler for
dessert." The world was toppling under her
feet, but she still remembered how crazy
he was for apple cobbler.
Helen was a good cook; in fact she was
a genius, with all the good points of a
woman and a mech combined. Dave ate
well enough, after he got started By the
time supper was over, he'd thawed out
enough to admit he liked the duck and
cobbler, and to thank her for packing. In
fact, he even let her kiss him good-bye,
though he firmly refused to let her go to the
rocket field with him.
Helen was frying to be brave when I got
back, and we carried on a stumbling con-
versation about Mrs. van Styler's servants
for a while. But the talk began to lull, and
she sat staring out of the window at noth-
ing most of the time. Even the stereo com-
edy lacked interest for her, and I was glad
enough to have her go off to her room. She
could cut her power down to simulate sleep
when she chose.
As the days slipped by. I began to re-
alize why she couldn't believe herself a ro-
bot. I got to thinking of her as a girl and
companion myself. Except for odd inter-
vals when she went off by herself to brood,
or when she kept going to the telescript for
a letter that never came, she was as good
a companion as a man could ask. There
was something homey about the place that
Lena had never put there.
I took Helen on a shopping trip to Hud-
son and she giggled and purred over the
wisps of silk and glassheen that were the
fashion, tried on endless hats, and con-
. ducted herself as any normal girl might.
We went trout fishing for a day. where she
proved to be as good a sport and as sen-
sibly silent as a man. I thoroughly enjoyed
myself and thought she was forgetting
Dave. That was before I came home un-
expectedly and found her doubled up on
the couch, thrashing her legs up and down
and crying to the high heavens.
It was then I called Dave. They seemed
to have trouble in reaching him, and Helen
came over beside me while I waited. She
was tense and fidgety as an old maid trying
to propose. But finally they located Dave.
"What's up, Phil?" he asked as his face
came on the viewplate. "I was just getting
my things together to—"
I broke him off. "Things can't go on the
way they are, Dave. I've made up my mind.
I'm yanking Helen's coils tonight. It won't
be worse than what she's going through
Helen reached up and touched my
shoulder. "Maybe that's best, Phil. I don't
Dave's voice cut in. "Phil, you don't know
what you're doing!"
"Of course I do. It'll all be over by the
time you can get here. As you heard, she's
There was a black cloud sweeping over
Dave's face. "I won't have it, Phil. She's half
mine and I forbid it!"
"Of all the—"
"Go ahead, call me anything you want.
I've changed my mind. I was packing to
come home when you called."
Helen jerked around me, her eyes glued
to the panel. "Dave, do you . . . are you — "
"I'm just waking up to what a fool I've
been, Helen. Phil, I'll be home in a couple
of hours, so if there's anything — "
He didn't have to chase me out. But be-
fore I could shut the door, I heard Helen
cooing something about loving to be a
Well. I wasn't as surprised as they
thought. I think I knew when I called Dave
what would happen. No man acts the way
Dave had been acting because he hates
a girl: only because he thinks he does —
and thinks wrong.
No woman ever made a lovelier bride or
a sweeter wife. Helen never lost her flare
for cooking and making a home. With her
gone, the old house seemed empty, and I
began to drop out to the ranch once or
twice a week. I suppose they had trouble
at times, but I never saw it, and I know the
neighbors never suspected they were any-
thing but normal man and wife.
Dave grew older, and Helen didn't, of
course. But between us, we put lines in her
face and grayed her hair without letting
Dave know that she wasn't growing old with
him; he'd forgotten that she wasn't human,
I practically forgot, myself. It wasn't until
a letter came from Helen this morning that
I woke up to reality. There, in her beautiful
script, just a trifle shaky in places, was the
inevitable that neither Dave nor I had seen.
As you know, Dave has had heart
trouble for several years now. We ex-
pected him to live on just the same, but
it seems that wasn't to be. He died in
my arms jusi before sunrise. He sent
you his greeiings and farewell.
I've one last favor to ask of you, Phil.
There is only one thing for me to do when
this is finished. Acid will burn out metal
as well as flesh, and I'll be dead with
Dave. Please see that we are buried to-
gether, and that the morticians do not
find my secret. Dave wanted it that way,
Poor, dear Phil. I know you loved Dave
as a brother, and how you felt about me.
Please don't grieve too much for us, for
we have had a happy life together, and
both feel that we should cross this last
bridge side by side.
With love and thanks from,
It had to come sooner or later, I suppose,
and the first shock has worn off now. I'll be
leaving in a few minutes to carry out Hel-
en's last instructions.
Dave was a lucky man, and the best
friend I ever had. And Helen— Well, as I
said. I'm an old man now. and can view
things more sanely; I should have married
and raised a family, I suppose. But . . . there
was only one Helen O'Loy.
Norbert needed a computer to help him
write his short stories . . .
but he had another, more compelling need
to help him cope with his existence
BY DAMON KNIGHT
The hard gray tile of the corridor rang un-
der his feet, bare gray corridor like a
squared-off gun barrel, bright ceiling over-
head, and he thought bore, shaft, tunnel,
tube. His door, 913. He turned the bright
key in the lock, the door slid aside, hissed
shut behind him. He heard the blowers be-
gin; faint current of fresh cool air. sanitized,
impersonal. The clock over the console
blinked from 10:58 to 10:59.
He leaned over the chair, punched the
"Ready" button. The dark screen came to
life, displayed the symbols "r. a, norbert
CG1905331 70 4/11/2012 10:59:04." The in-
formation blinked and vanished, recorded,
memorized, somewhere in fhe guts of the
computer nine stories down.
Norbert removed his brown corduroy
jacket, hung it carefully in the closet. He
sat down in front of Ihe console, loosened
the foulard around his throat, combed his
neat little goatee. He sighed, rubbed his
hands together, then punched the music
and coffee buttons.
The music drifted out, the coffee spurled
into the cup, fragrant brew, invigorating
beverage, rich brown fluid. He sipped it,
sel it down, filled his pipe with burley from
a silk pouch and lit it.
The screen was patiently blank. He
leaned forward, punched "Start." Bright
characters blinked across Ihe screen, the
printer clattered, a sheel curled out into
The first one was "worldbook mod fem
mar 5, set opt," and the other two were just
the same except for length— one four
thousand, the other three.
He thought discontentedly of novels,
something there a man could get his teeth
into, a week just setting up the parameters:
but then a whole month on the job, that
could be a bore: and Markwich had told
him, "You've got a touch with the short story,
Bob." A flair, a certain aptitude, a/e ne sa/s
quoi. He drank more coffee, put it down.
He sighed again, pinched his nose reflec-
tively, touched the "Start" button.
The screen said:
"2122084 WORLDBOOK MOO FEM MAR SET
"THEME: COME TO REALIZE VICTORY OVER RI-
VAL ADJUSTMENT WITH GROUP"
He picked up the light pen. touched the
first of the three choices The other two
PAINTING BY ROWENA MORRILL
setting: NEW YORK
He hesitated waving the light pen at the
screen. He paused at "Antwerp"— he'd
never done that one — but no: too exotic.
New York. Paris, London ... He frowned,
clenched the bit of the pipe in his teeth,
and plunged for "Ocean Towers." It was a
hunch; he felt a little thrill of an idea there.
He called for pictures, and the screen
displayed them: first a long shot of the Tow-
ers rising like a fabulous castle-crowned
mountain out of the sea; then a series of
interiors, and Norbert stopped it almost at
once: there, that was what he wanted, the
central vault, with the sunlight pouring
Sunlight, he wrote, and the screen added
promptly fell from the ceiling as — and here
Norbert's stabbing finger stopped it; the
words remained frozen on Ihe screen while
he frowned and sucked on his pipe, his
gurgling briar. Fell wouldn't do: to begin
with, sunlight didn't fall like a flowerpot.
Streamed 7 Well, perhaps— No, wail, he had
it. He touched the word with the light pen,
then tapped out spilled. Good-oh. Now the
next part was too abrupt; there was your
computer for you every time, hopeless when
it came to expanding an idea; and he
touched the space before ceiling and wrote,
huge panes of Ihe.
The lext now read: Sunlight spilled from
fhe huge panes of the ceiling as
Norbert punched "Start" again and
watched Ihe sentence grow: ... as Inez
Trevelyan crossed the plaza among fhe
hurrying throngs. End of sentence, and he
stopped it there. Trevelyan was all right,
but he didn't like Inez, too spinslerish. What
about Theodora — no, too many sylla-
bles—or Georgette? No. Oh, hell, let the
computer do it; that's what it was for. He
touched the name, then the try-again but-
ton, and gol Jean Joan Joanna Judith Karen
Karla Laura. There. That had got her— Laura
Trevelyan. Now then, crossed the plaza—
well, a plaza was what if was, but why be
so obvious? He touched Ihe offending word
with the light pen, wrote in floor; and then
murmuring instead of hurrying (appeal to
another sense there); and now, hmm,
something really subtle — he deleled the
period and wrote in of morning.
Sunlight spilled from fhe huge panes of
the ceiling as Laura Trevelyan crossed the
floor among the murmuring throngs of
Not bad — not bad at all. He sipped cof-
fee, then wrote, The light. You had to keep
the computer at it, or it would change the
subject every time. The sentence pro-
longed itself: was so brilliant and sparkling,
and he stopped it and revised, and so on;
and in a moment he had: The light was so
yellow and pure, even where it reflected
from the f!ooj~ amid the feet of the pas-
sersby, that it reminded Laura of a field of
yellow daisies. The real sun was up there
somewhere, she knew, but it was so long
since she had seen it . . .
Good. Now a little back-look.
Her first day in Ocean Towers, she re-
membered unexpectedly, it had been gray
outside and the great hall had been full of
pearly light. I! had seemed so wonderful
and thrilling then. It had taken some pluck
for her to come here at all— cutting her ties
with County Clare, leaving all her family
and friends to go and live in this strange
echoing place, no! even on land but built
on pylons sunk info the ocean floor. But
Eric's and Henry's careers were here, and
where they went she must go.
She had married Eric Trevelyan when she
was nineteen; he was a talented and im-
petuous man who was making a name for
himself as a professional fable-tennis player.
(A mental note: jai-alai might be better, but
did they have jai-alai in Ocean Towers?
Check it in a moment.) He had the easy
charm and bluff good humor of the Eng-
lish, and an insatiable appetite for living —
more parties, more sex, more everything.
His teammate, Henry Ricardo, who had
joined the marriage two years later, was
everything that Eric was not — solid, de-
pendable, a little slow, but with a rare warmth
in his infrequent smiles.
So much for that. Norbert punched the
query button and typed out his question
about jai-alai in Ocean Towers, and found
Ihey had it, all right, but on thinking it over
he decided to make it chess instead; there
was something a little wonky about the idea
of a slow jai-alai player, or for that matter
table tennis either. And besides, he himself
loathed sports, and it would be a bore
looking up rules and so on
Anyhow, now for a touch of plot. Eric and
Henry, it appeared, were rising in their field
and had less and less time for Laura. An
interesting older man approached her. but
she repulsed him, and took the transpolar
jet back to County Clare.
The computer displayed a map of Ire-
land, and IMorbert picked a town called
Newmarket-on-Fergus, avoiding names like
Kilrush, Lissycasey and Doonbeg that were
too obvious and quaint Besides, New-
market was not far from Shannon Airport,
and that made it plausible that Laura had
met Eric there in the first place.
Laura was rapturous to be home again
(the daisies were in bloom), and although
the Clancy cottages seemed crowded and
smelly to her now, il didn't matter; but after
a few weeks she grew tired of watching the
cows every day and the telly every night.
and went over to Limerick for a party. But
Limerick was not what she was seeking,
either, and she finally admitted to herself
that she was homesick for Ocean Towers.
The register stood at 4,031 words.
Laura took the next jet back to Ocean
Towers and had an emotional reconcilia-
tion with Eric (but Henry was a little cool),
only to learn that they had been offered a
three-year contract in Buenos Aires. Walk-
ing the promenade over the Pacific that
night, unable to sleep, she met the older
man again (Harlan Moore) and wept in his
arms. The next morning she called Eric
and Henry together and told them her news.
"You must go on to the wonderful things
and far places that are waiting for you,"
she said. "But I — " and her eyes were sud-
denly as misty as the dawn over Killar-
ney— "I know now that my yellow daisies
Five thousand, two hundred and fifteen
words: pretty close. He became aware that
he was hungry and that his legs ached
from sitting so long. The clock above the
console stood at 2:36.
No point in starting on the next one now,
he would only go stale on it over the week-
end. He got up and stretched until his joints
cracked, walked back and forth a little to
get the stiffness out, then sat down again
and relit his pipe. When he had it drawing
to his satisfaction, he leaned forward and
punched the retrieval code for a thing of
his own he had been working on, the one
that began, "Chirurging down the blod-
strom, gneiss atween his tief," and so on.
He read it as far as it went, added a few
words half-heartedly and deleted them
again. Ficciones would probably send it
back with a rejection slip as usual, the bas-
tards, although it was exactly like the stuff
they printed all the time: if you weren't in
their clique, you didn't have a chance. He
tapped out. "thank heaven it's Thursday,"
and blanked the screen.
At 2:58 the screen lit up again: a sum-
mary of his weekly earnings and deduc-
tions. The printer clattered; a sheet fell into
the tray. Norbert picked it up, glanced at
the total, then folded the sheet and put it
into his breast pocket, thinking absently
that he really had better cut down this week
and pay back some of his debit. He re-
membered the music and turned il off. The
soothing strains. He punched the "Fin-
ished" button and the screen came to life
once more, displaying the symbols "r. a.
norbert CG1905331 70 4/11/2012 3:01:44."
Then it blinked and went dark. Norbert
waited a moment to see it there was any-
thing else, a message from Markwich for
instance, but there wasn't. He straightened
his foulard, took down his jacket and put it
on. The door hissed shut behind him, and
he heard the wards of the lock snick home.
Down the gunmetal corridor. He gave his
key to the putty-faced security guard, a
crippled veteran of the Race War who had
never spoken a word in Norbert's memory.
In the public corridor, a few people were
hurrying past, but not many; it was still early.
That was how Norbert liked it. If you could
choose your own hours, why work when
everybody else did? He punched for twenty,
and the elevator whisked him up. Here the
traffic was a little brisker. Norbert got into
line at the mono stop, looking over the
vending machines while he waited. There
were new issues of Madame, Chatelaine,
Worldbook and Alter Four. He punched for
all of them and put his card into the slot.
The machine blinked, chugged, slammed
the copies into the receptacle. Moving away,
he could hear the whirring of the fax ma-
chines making more.
After Four had nothing of his, as he had
expected— he did very little men's stuff.
But Madame and Chatelaine had one of
his stories apiece, and Worldbook two. He
checked the indicia to make sure his name
was there: " 'Every Sunday.' by IBM and
R. A. Norbert," the only recognition he would
get. The stories themselves were un-
signed, although occasionally one of them
would say, "By the author of 'White Magic,' "
or whatever. He boarded the shuttle and
sat down, leafing through the magazines
idly. "Making Do with Abundance," by
Mayor Antonio, illustrated by a cornucopia
dribbling out watches, cigar lighters, bot-
tles of perfume, packages tied with blue
satin bows. A garish full-page ad. "Be
Thoroughly You— Use Vaginal Gloss. The
best way to give it to you is with a brush."
"Q Fever — the Unknown Killer." "Race Su-
icide—Is It Happening to Us?" by Sher-
wood M. Sibley. The medical article had
an IBM house name for a byline, but the
others were genuine. He had met Sibley
once or twice at house parties — a pop-
eyed, nervous man with a damp hand-
shake, but judging by the clothes he wore,
he must be making plenty. And it was really
unfair, how much better non-fic writers were
treated, but, as Markwich said, that was
the public taste for you, and the pendulum
He got off at Fifth Avenue and changed
to the uptown mono. The lights in the car
were beginning to make his head ache. As
the car pulled up at the 50th Street slop,
he looked back and saw something curi-
ous: a sprawled black figure hanging in
midair in the canyon of the avenue. Then
the car pulled in, other people were get-
ting up, and by the time he could see in
that direction again, it was gone: but he
knew somehow that it had been too big
and the wrong shape for anything but a
man tailing. He wondered briefly how on
earth the man had got outside the build-
ing. All the balconies were roofed and
glassed in. The fellow must have been a
workman or something.
The farther uptown they went, the more
crowded the mono cars were on the other
side of the avenue, going south; it was get-
ting on toward the dinner hour. The crowds
he could see on the balconies were mostly
touristy-looking people in Chicagoland suits
and West Coast Ireak outfits, white-haired
and swag-bellied. Some of the women, old
as they were, had smooth Gordonized
faces, A few Pakistanis, a little younger.
Really, he told himself, he was lucky to have
such a good job, young as he was, and
let's face it, he didn't have the tempera-
ment for going out and interviewing peo-
ple, gathering information and all that.
The man beside him, getting off at 76th
Street, dropped his newspaper on the seat
and Norbert picked it up. more kidnap-mur-
DER VICTIMS FOUND. WILL MARRY KEN, ORVILLE;
ELLA MAE, UNIVERSE LESS THAN 2 BILLION YEARS
old, says Columbia prof. The usual thing.
At 125th Street, a glimpse of the sky as he
stepped out onto the platform: it was faintly
greenish beyond the dome. He crossed
the public corridor to the bright chrome
and plastic lobby of BankAmerica. At the
exchange window, he presented his card
to the blond young woman. 'Another twenty-
five, Mr. Norbert?"
"That's right, yes, twenty-five."
"You must really like currency." She made
a note on a pad, put his card into her ma-
chine and tapped keys.
"No, I don't really — I travel a good deal,
you see. It isn't safe to carry credit cards
anymore." She glanced up at him silently,
withdrew his card from the machine. "They
kidnap you and make you buy things," he
Her beautiful Gordonized face did not
change. She counted out the bills, pushed
them across the counter. Norbert took them
hastily, sure that his cheeks were flushed.
It was no use, he would have to change
banks; she knew there was no legitimate
reason to draw twenty-five dollars in cash
every week. . . . "Thank you, good-bye."
"Good-bye, Mr. Norbert. Have an enjoy-
In the public corridor of his level a few
minutes later, he ran into Art and Ellen
Whitney heading for the elevators. Art and
he had been roommates at one time, and
then when they got married, Art and Ellen
moved up to one of the garden apartments
on the fiftieth floor. They looked stiff and
dressed-up in identical orange plastiques.
"Why, here he is now," said Art. "Bob, this
is real luck. We were just trying to get you
on the phone, then we went and banged
on your door. This is Phyllis McManus — "
he turned to a slight, pale blonde Norbert
had not noticed until now. "And her date
stood her up. Well, you know, ah, his mother
is sick. Anyhow, we've got tickets to the ice
opera at the Garden, and we're going to
Yorty's afterwards. What do you say, would
you like to come along?" Phyllis McManus
smiled faintly, not quite looking at Norbert.
Her virginal charm. "You will come, won't
you, Bob?" said Ellen, speaking for the first
time. She gave his arm a squeeze.
"I'm terribly sorry," said Norbert, letting
his eyes glaze and bulge a little with sin-
cerity. "I promised my sister I'd have din-
ner with her tonight — it's her birthday, and.
you know . . ." He shrugged, smiled. "I
would have loved it, Miss McManus. really
I can't say how sorry I am."
"Oh. Well, that's really a shame," said
Art. "You're sure you couldn't call her up—
tell her something — "
"Sorry . . . just can't be done. Hope you
have a good time, anyhow — good-bye,
Miss McManus, nice to have met you . . ."
They drifted apart, with regretful calls and
gestures. When they were safely gone.
Norbert headed for the private corridor. His
room, 2703; the telltales showed it was all
right. He unlocked the door, closed and
barred it behind him with a shudder of re-
lief. The little green room was quiet and
cool. He rolled up the closet blind, un-
dressed and hung his clothes up with care.
Before he stepped into the minishower, he
punched for a Martini and a burger-bits
casserole, his favorite. Then the refreshing
spray. Air-dried and out again, he ate lei-
surely, watching the 3D and leafing through
the magazines he had bought. By now Art
and Ellen and what's-her-name would be
sitting in a row at the Garden under the
lights, watching the mannequins cavort on
the ice-covered arena below.
Norbert's thighs were beginning to
tremble. He dressed again, quickly, in his
"street clothes" — dirty denim pants, a faded
turtleneck, a cracked vinyl jacket. He re-
trieved the wad of bills from his weskit,
pulled the closet blind down again. He
locked and secured the door behind him.
Once out of the building, he took the shut-
tle crosstown to Broadway, down two lev-
els, then north again to 168th Street. The
dingy concourse was echoing, almost
empty. Two or three dopes, twitching and
mumbling, rode the escalator down with
him. He came out into the gray street, slick
and shiny under the glare of dusty light
panels Streaks of rust down the gray walls.
The spattered pavement, here since
LaGuardia; globs of sputum, puddles of
degradable plastic. Posters on the walls;
PARENTHOOD MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR
HEALTH DRIP. DON'T DROP WHAT DID KIDS EVER
do for you? Rumble of semis and vans on
the expressway just overhead; electrics
sliding by on the avenue. Hallucinatory red
and blue of 3D signs, the faint sound of
Norbert went into the Peachtree and had
a quick shot at the bar; he wanted another,
but was loo nervous and walked out again.
In the window of Eddie's, three or four good
old boys were tucking into a platter of pork
and mustard greens. Norbert crossed the
avenue and turned west on 169th. The
doorways were full of 'billies and their girls
lounging and spitting; one or two of them
gave him a knowing look as he went by.
"Hey, yonky," called a mocking voice, just
barely audible. Norbert kept walking, past
a few closed storefronts into an area of
crumbling apartment houses built in the
sixties. The front windows were all dark,
the hallways lit only by naked yellow bulbs.
At the remembered entry, he stopped,
looked around. On the sidewalk, beside an
arrangement of numbered squares, some-
one had written in yellow chalk, "Lucy is a
Hoka." He went in, under the sick yellow
light. The hallway stank of boiled greens
and vomit. The door at the end was ajar.
"Well, come awn in," said the lanky old
man in the armchair. His blue eyes stared
at Norbert without apparent recognition.
"Don't knock, nobody else does, walk right
in." Norbert tried to smile. The others at
the card table looked up briefly and went
back to their game. The red drapes at the
courtyard window were pulled back as if
to catch a breeze. Somewhere up there in
the blackness a voice burst out furiously,
"You cocksucker, if I catch you . . ."
' "Hello, Buddy," said Norbert. "Flo here?"
"Flo?" said the old man. "No sir, she sho'
Norbert's insides went hollow. "She's not?
I mean — where'd she go?"
The old man waved his arm in a vague
gesture. "Down home, I reckon." He stood
up slowly. "Got us a new gal, just up from
the country this mornin'." He put one hand
casually between Norbert's shoulder-
blades and pushed him toward one of the
"Well, I don't know," said Norbert, trying
to hang back.
"Come on," said the old man in his ear.
"She do inny-thang. You wait now."
They were standing in front of the door,
pressed so tightly together that Norbert
could smell the old man's stale underwear.
Swollen knuckles rapped the door. "Betty
After a frozen moment, the door began
to open. A woman was standing there,
monstrous in a flowered housedress. Nor-
bert's heart jumped. She was olive-skinned,
almost Latin-looking; the folds of her heavy
face were so dark that they seemed grimy.
She looked at him steadily from under brows
like black caterpillars; her eyes were evil,
weary and compassionate. She took his
hand. The old man said something which
he did not hear. Then the door had closed
behind him and they were alone.
Ithough the title of this series,
strictly interpreted, would require that all material in it be reprinted from
Omni magazine, a more generous practice has prevailed. When the
novella "Waiting for the Earthquake" by Robert Silverberg appeared in
volume two because it was too long for the parent magazine, a fortuitous
precedent was set — and once set, expanded. Henceforth, this series
would include as many original works as were available and consistent
with Omni quality. And how very high that quality is can be gauged by
the stories in the following section.
First off is "The Touch" by Gregory Benford. It is not a message piece
but rather an entertainment — an engrossing, chilling extrapolation of
the current video-game phenomenon. Tron, Donkey Kong, Defender
are small challenges compared to the game played by Benford's hero.
Interfaced with a vast computer network this game learns, reasons,
intrigues. As to the game's outcome — nothing short of startling.
Another entertainment is "The Lost Secret" in which Laurence Janifer
resurrects the shrewd, wisecracking character Gerald Knave, who is
familiar to many from Janifer's novels Survivor and Knave in Hand.
The publication of a short story by William Tenn (pseudonym of Philip
Klass) is a noteworthy event not only because it is a powerful allegorical
piece with a message very much for our time, but because its author
just hasn't been publishing much in more than a decade. As William
Tenn he began publishing science fiction in the mid-1940s and during
the next twenty years published six collections of stories and two nov-
els — Of Men and Monsters and A Lamp for Medusa. He has been
known primarily as a satirist but there is nothing funny about his con-
tribution, "There Were People on Bikini, There Were People on Attu."
In "Village of the Chosen," an imaginative story, lightly seasoned with
humor, Alan Dean Foster creates a weary journalist who happens upon
an anomalously exotic woman. Not quite believing his eyes, he pursues
her across the wastes of northern Somalia. What happens then is an
answer to one of the world's age-old problems — an answer, you might
say, that gets under the skin.
He had always
outwitted the Game's
But now the stakes
were higher . . . and the
machine was smarter
BY GREGORY BENFORD MICHEL HENRICOT
Today, al work, he thought
of the Game incessantly.
He had been playing it
for some years now. At Mrs!
he had sought mere mild
entertainment. There were, of
course, the electronic games
that one saw in public
places — pitiful things, a few
moments of shallow
amusement bought with a
quarter. That was as far as
most people went — or could
go, given their skills.
He had tried those numbing,
repetitive conlesls, and quickly
abandoned them. They
rewarded quick motor skills
and elementary tactical sense.
but were painfully limited.
Nothing like the Game.
He had a business meeting
in the morning. It dragged
unmercifully. Then came lunch
with some business associates. They were
confident, seasoned fellows, their seamed
faces at ease. As they discussed recent
events, he thought mildly that politics was
the intelligent man's weather: an inexhaus-
tible subject, forever new and forever pur-
poseless. He studied the brown liver spots
on his hands and said nothing.
He found their talk of money matters kept
drifting in and out of his attention, dream-
like, as if their numbers and analyses were
unreal and his memory of the Game was
That afternoon he lost track entirely dur-
ing a conference with his own lawyer. The
man looked puzzled when they parted.
He left early and went directly home.
There was a light supper; he made polite,
bland conversation with his lady but intro-
duced no fresh topics on his own. As coon
as was seemly, he remarked on his fatigue
and went to his study.
He settled into his favorite leather arm-
chair, pulling the massive board to within
easy reach. The display screen nearly ob-
scured the view out the wide windows. The
rich lawn beyond was a vibrant yellow-
green swath. Birds trilled their twilight calls
among the trees that marched down to the
river. Dogs romped near the gate.
He sat with his back to the study door,
to discourage anyone who might acciden-
tally enter from striking up a conversation.
He had a fresh drink at his side. His mind
The Game began. He lounged back,
making his first moves, knowing at this stage
he had ample time, The tranquility of his
study made immersion in the growing
complexities easy, and heightened even
the simple victories of the opening con-
tests. He never had difficulty at this stage
It was very much like learning the char-
acters and setting in a novel. Each time
the Game featured different cultures, dif-
ferent assumptions about the importance
of wealth, of power, of love, of life itself.
Each Game was fresh. The pitiful elec-
tronic games that the public played were
monotonous to him. In the decades since
their introduction, the public amusements
had improved somewhat, but they were
inevitably dominated and limited by their
audience— mostly adolescents who had
the time to play, but not the sophistication
to demand anything better.
Tonight the scheme was particularly en-
grossing. The social matrix was modified
Late Marxist, with class divisions reemerg-
ing. He played a young man, restive and
ambitious — his customary choice.
In the first challenge he had to maneuver
himself into the Party apparatus. Simple
enough. There were impediments, of
course. At the Peoples' Training Camp the
physical challenges translated into quick,
deft motions on the board. He learned to
excel at single combat, neally setting up
his opponents in the Maze-Delay and
then — touch — one button, pressed at the
right instant, did them in.
He secured a good middle-level post.
For a young man he was doing quite well.
Then he became involved with Lisa, the
mistress of a Regional Commissioner Lust
drove him — the Game knew his likes by
now, and the images of Lisa held his eyes
even when he knew he should be absorb-
ing other information from the board. Her
face was a composition of serene curves,
and her smooth skin glowed.
He had to keep the affair secret. The
Commissioner was known as jealous and
vindictive: the man had learned of Lisa's
earlier affairs and had adroitly framed each
of her past lovers for offenses against the
state. Most of them had vanished in mys-
Dusk darkened into night outside as he
felt his way through this society. There were
advantages he knew from experience-
some black marketing here, a neat dodge
there; a controversial report filed at the right
moment, which forced his immediate su-
perior to resign.
The Game was expensive, and that, too,
enhanced his enjoyment. The Game was
as intelligent as a human — perhaps more
so — within its tight, circumscribed uni-
verse. Huge compuier resources hummed
to match his mental agility. He stretched
leisurely in the armchair, feeling the warm
caress of worn leather, languidly letting the
study slip away, entering the Game more
deeply with each move he made.
Touch — he moved up in the system.
Touch — and he made contact wilh some
members in the Opposition.
Timing, that was it. A moment too soon,
and the flow of events across the board
would unmask his moves, make his inten-
tions obvious. Too late, and a missed op-
portunity would be picked up by an un-
derling, gnawing away his position.
Much of this was displayed in moving
patterns of crystalline colors, in currents of
probability. His decisions — touch — came
quickly. Tactics. Maneuver. He felt himself
skimming over rapids, attention flicking from
point to point on the board, sizing up each
maneuver — moving, always moving.
Tonight the Game was better than ever.
It presented him with problems at work,
intrigues of Party politics, chances for black
market gains. Risky, but inventive.
He could lose al any moment. But he
didn't, No matter how many moves the
Game thought ahead, he anticipated. There
was always an out. a way to gain, or at least
to avoid defeat. That was the one rule: there
must be a solution.
At some points the Game was slower
than usual. He knew this was because his
skill was matching the ability of the entire
system. The Game had to simulate life in
all its complexity, and provide patterns of
play not used before.
Any sufficiently complex network comes,
in time, to seem like an independent entity.
It was helpful to think of it as sentient. The
intricate computer linkages had a person-
ality of their own, and they did not like to
lose. Through the years he liked to think a
relationship had formed between himself
and the constantly improving computer net.
They had sharpened each other's wits.
Now he was straining it to the limit When
that limit was passed, he could win. And
tonight he knew he would.
He met Lisa at an apartment he rented,
under a false name, for that purpose alone.
Their nights together inflamed his imagi-
nation. Leaving the apartment at sunrise,
however, he saw that he was being tailed.
There were several explanations. Some-
one in the police, perhaps. A leak in the
Or an underling, trying to uncover some
scrap of scandal? Possibly.
Here was a place to be deft, subtle. Just
a touch . . .
He laid traps for these two eventualities.
He continued meeting Lisa, as often as
she could arrange to slip away from the
Commissioner. The man often kept her at
his country estate, waiting until he had time
She got away to the city as often as pos-
sible. Their arrangements were elaborate
and as secure as his years of experience
could make them.
Still, there were more signs. He tended
to his growing personal empire, his net-
work of informants, his associations with
those whom he could help and who would
be willing to return the favor.
All this he had done before in earlier
games. But this time, tonight — he had to
glance up at the black windows to remind
himself — there were undercurrents he could
barely sense, subtle shifts, pivots, flows of
money and power that he did not under-
He was oblivious now. He did not notice
the gathering chill from the great windows,
or even feel the warm, familiar leather. He
was fully alive, his prickly instincts alert for
warning nuances in his work, in his cus-
tomary social relations, in everyday detail.
A singing vibrancy gripped him and the
years of routine fell away. The Game was
excelling itself tonight. He could sense its
brooding intelligence behind the board,
feeling him out, retreating when he lunged,
never giving itself away. Patient.
The computers had a style, just as did
he. The Game avoided the obvious, brutal
methods. It usually let him run a given tac-
tic for a while, studying it, before adroitly
deflecting it. The Game favored responses
that turned the logic of a strategy back upon
itself. Often il seemed to be playful, inge-
nious, as if to say, Have you considered it
It was Lisa who noticed the small error.
She recognized one of the Commission-
er's cars parked in the distance, a man
sitting at the wheel. The man was not look-
ing at the two of them on the balcony above,
but that did not matter. Lisa had met the
man only in passing once before, but she
had a remarkable memory for faces. The
Commissioner had probably thought us-
ing him was a negligible risk.
Fear was part of the Game as well. It
would have been simple io abandon Lisa,
to back away and try another path to suc-
cess. After all, there were many women.
But by now he was linked to her in ways
he could not describe even to himself. To
slink away, losing face when confronted by
the electronic intelligence behind the
No. He began playing with greal speed,
nimbly repeating patterns of the past.
It was important to appear unafraid. To
continue using tactics that had his usual
style. To give no hint of his preparations.
He had to eliminate the Commissioner.
The brittle intelligence within the Game
would anticipate that, though probably it
would not seem a likely move. His personal
style ran more to the gradual techniques —
a slow piling up of advantages, until the
moment of resolution came.
Therefore, do the opposite. Instead of
carefully marshaling resources, strike
swiftly, boldly, in a way uncharacteristic of
his usual methods. But use Ihe computer's
expectations against it. Seem to be follow-
ing a customary pattern. Carry on a series
of slower moves, moves that the Game
He set aboul constructing a reasonably
devious plot, involving a dozen officials. It
aimed at implicating the Commissioner in
treasonous securities exchanges with a
nearby country. He had used a similar de-
vice before with great success.
Beneath Ihis, he planned a subplot. It
had to involve a minimum of people. Lisa
was the only one he could trust. His style
was always to use conventional pathways,
so (he subplot had to be swift and daring.
Their paths intersected at twilight, at an
inn in the countryside. He had abandoned
his own auto on the other side of the city,
taken a bus. then a train. Lisa had just come
from the Commissioner's estate.
She left the pyramid-shaped thing on a
table in Ihe foyer, keeping her eyes straight
ahead, and (hen went in to dinner. She did
not so much as glance at him. The timing
was perfect. He palmed the pyramid on
his way out. a moment later,
The man with Lisa — the Commission-
er's usual guard for her — stayed in his car,
reading a newpaper. She was meeting
friends for dinner and he would be out of
place. The man did nol even look up as a
shadow moved from the side door and into
the trees nearby.
He ran the two kilometers Ihrough dense
woodland as dusk became night. Branches
scratched his face. An owl hooted at him,
bul Ihere was no sign of deleclion. Pant-
ing, he thought of Lisa dining, taking her
time, extending the interval until the pyra-
mid-key would be needed to readmit her
to the estate. He remembered her black
hair, the high arch of her cheekbones, the
hypnotic passion of her.
He used the pyramid-key Io disarm the
detectors. In the blackness he had only
starlight and the remembered locations of
the alarm system monitors to guide him.
He recognized the small hill near the river
and ran around it, keeping in cover.
There was the line of frees leading to the
great house The downstairs rooms were
not supposed to be in use. and indeed, as
she had said, they were dark.
He used the pyramid-key al the gate
again. It slid open silently,
He went up the driveway, avoiding the
gravel, and around to the back. The kitchen
door yielded. No one about. Through a side
room, where silverware awaited polishing.
Turn left. Yes — (he big dining room. Then
a hallway lined with scowling portraits. Lush
carpeting that led to a stairway. His foot-
steps made no sound going up.
He took out the gun. Pressed against
flesh, it delivered a nerve poison. Death
was swift and untraceable.
Turn here to the left. A closed door. From
under it yellowish light seeped. No sound
He turned the knob slowly. Well oiled, as
she had arranged. The latch slid free.
Now he moved quickly. The images came
at him in a rush.
A brown armchair. Books lining the study.
Large windows, showing the blackness
outside. The head of the older man, white
haired, nol resting back against the leather
but instead tilted forward, concentrating on
the board before him, the wrinkled neck
exposed, the face intent and pensive, fo-
cused, as if waiting for —
Gregory Benford, now in his early forties,
is both an accomplished scientist and a
celebrated writer of science fiction. He
earned his doctorate in physics from the
University of California where he is now a
full professor at the Irvine campus. And as
a scientist he has published some fifty pa-
pers on such subjects as high-energy as-
trophysics, pulsars, quasars and violent
extragalactic events. As a writer of science
fiction he is noted for his well-plotted, care-
fully written, elegant prose. Recognition of
his exceptional achievement in science
fiction came in 1981 when he not only won
a Nebula Award for his novel Timescape,
but when the name "Timescape" itself was
chosen by the publishing house of Simon
and Schuster for its new line of science
fiction paperbacks. Earlier novels include
If the Stars are Gods (co-authored with
Gordon Ecklund). Deeper Than the Dark-
ness and In Ihe Ocean of Night. These
works and most of his short stories are
based on Benford's favorite themes — ge-
netic engineering, theology, deep-space
exploration, alien worlds and future weap-
onry. In large part these themes are evi-
dent in the two of his stories— "A Hiss of
Dragon" .(co-written with Marc Laidlaw) and
"Dark Sanctuary" — already anthologized
in The Best of Omni Science Fiction series.
Significantly perhaps, since it touches on
none of his usual motifs, the never-before-
published Benford story in this volume may
mark a new departure in his writing career.
How Gerald Knave makes
a killing in
the immortality racket
BY LAURENCE M. JANIFER
■ e said his name was Duncan Harrison and he
insisted on buying me another drink. I told him it didn't matter, he had only upset my gimlet at the bat,
it could have happened to anybody, and just forget it. "But I teel an obligation," he said. "I'm terribly
sorry— a little clumsy this evening— but I have a great deal on my mind," Which is when he began to
interest me, strangely.
I was in the Regency Inn, NA Continent, Earth, which is a little showy and has all-live service, so an
all-live bartender brought me a new gimlet and put another Thing in front of my new friend. It was blue
and it had foam on it, and he didn't identify it and God knows I didn't ask. I said, merely and mildly,
"Thanks," and Harrison raised his Thing and gave me a nervous little smile over the rim of it.
Duncan Harrison: five feet five, maybe one hundred and twenty pounds, expensive black-silk jumper
with the usual fittings, hair a little thin on top, and one helluva earnest, terribly honest expression behind
"Not at all," he said. "It was completely my fault, Mr. — " He hesitated. "By the way." he said, "I don't
know your name."
"Knave," I said. "Gerald Knave." I was out of business cards— one of the reasons I was staying in the
Home Worlds a little longer than usual was to get some more printed up with Real Earth quality and
expense attached — but I wouldn't have given him one if I'd had ten thousand. Gerald Knave: Survivor
looks fine on a card, but if you hand the card out, you are buying yourself a lot of explanation lime, and
I wasn't in the mood.
Besides, as I've said, this Harrison type interested me. And I had the very strong feeling that a word
like Survivor might be a word he understood, and that understanding might make him nervous. And I
knew, right off, that I didn't want him nervous. I wanted him calm, cool, assured, and entirely certain that
he was in total control of the situation.
PAINTING BY JULIA TURCHUK
So I slopped, and smiled back al him.
and wailed lo find out what the situation
was going to be. We took a sip apiece, and
Harrison said, nicely casual: "Why not sit
at a table — if you don't mind? You look like
an unusual sort of man, Mr. Knave."
It's not a bad opening. When he looked
round, spotted an empty table in a corner
some distance from anyone else, grabbed
his Thing, and headed lor it. I followed right
along, porting the gimlet.
I was wearing a fairly expensive outfit,
and I let my expression and attitude change
a little to confirm what the outfit said: I was
all over innocence and light-hearted wealth.
When we sat down. I took up his opening:
"What's unusual about me?"
"Well — " He hesitated, frowning. Trying
to sum it all up. "It's really just an impres-
sion I get. But, when you've been around
as long as I have — " Another hesitation,
while a small shadow of secret satisfaction
crossed his face and was allowed to dis-
appear — "well, you learn to depend on such
impressions. You're — ah — reasonably
successful, in the world's terms, Mr.
Knave — but a shrewd sort of man to deal
with; I'd say that at once. However, in your
own terms . . ." He let it trail off, and gave
me a fairly effective shrug.
"In my own terms?" I said. Surprised,
He took another sip of that damned blue
Thing. "In your own terms. Mr. Knave, you're
not satisfied — not really. You're still looking
for something — still searching — "
My surprise became open astonish-
ment. "How did you know thai?" I said, re-
minding myself, for God's sake, not to
He tried the smile again. He was very
good at it. "As I say," he told me, "when
you've been around as long as I have, Mr.
Knave — "
'Jerry," I said. "Please. And you don't
look so very old — I'd say forty-five, at the
outside." An honest count would have made
it fifty; I felt it was in character— the char-
acter I was still busily assuming — to shade
it a little for him.
'Jerry, then," he said. The same smile,
with a little of his secret-satisfaction bit
added in. "What would you say if I told you
I was older than forty-five — very much
I'd fed him the right cue line. My face
stayed innocent, astonished, and friendly — .
but still a little wary. "What I'd say, Mr. Har-
rison — " I started.
"Duncan," he said. He didn't push too
hard. He really was very good. At least, a
good bit better than average.
It got him my very best nervous smile.
"Duncan, then," I said, to even us up. "I'd
say you were in, well, just remarkable health.
If you're really much older than forty-five —
well, Duncan, I just wouldn't believe it."
He nodded, soberly. "That's our protec-
tion, you see," he said. "Nobody would be-
lieve it. Oh, everyone talks about it — you
must have heard some idle chatter— but
nobody knows that it's quite real. II actually
exists; it's been found." Secret satisfac-
tion; small smile. "The only people who do
know, you see, are the ones who've had
it — and, of course, the ones who become
candidates for it."
"Candidates?" I said. "For what?" It
seemed like a good idea to give him the
chance to make his full pitch; if I were a
little slow to catch on, he might relax a bit
"For immortality," he said, and looked
around as if to spot anyone listening. No-
body was listening. "The lost secret of the
Ancients," he went on. "Immortality."
As he'd told me, I hadn't become suc-
cessful without being a little shrewd. I trot-
ted out some shrewdness. "Now, wait a
minute — " I said.
"Oh, I know it sounds like a 3V thriller."
he said He looked around some more. "It's
a legend, after all, and some people still
believe that it doesn't exist. That the secret
of immortality was something the Ancients
didn't have time to discover, back before
the Clean Slate War—"
"Sure I've heard talk," I said. "Every-
body has. But — well, you said it yourself —
it's a legend. And only a legend. Good God,
man, if it were real — "
"Yes," he said. "If it were real. Concen-
trate on that for a minute. Perhaps you'll
see why we take great care to maintain it
as a legend."
So I sat there. I hadn't been looking for
this Duncan Harrison — or for anybody. I'd
just dropped in for a drink or two. But I had
every intention of continuing the acquaint-
ance very closely, for a while.
Therefore, after a decent interval, and
most of the gimlet, I allowed the light of
understanding to dawn on my eager face.
'"You mean — " I said, with all the awe I
could muster. "You mean it wouldn't be for
That brought from him a big, satisfied
smile. "I knew I was right about you," he
said. "You're quick. You see the point at
once. It simply can't be for everybody. Why,
the Home Worlds are overcrowded as
things stand, only three hundred years after
the Clean Slate War. And there aren't
enough Frontier planets to take care of the
population we'd have — if nobody ever died.
Given just one child per couple every twenty
years ." The shrug again.
"Of course," I said. "It would make sense.
But you're telling me — "
"I'm telling you," he said, very solemnly,
"that I am one hundred and thirty years
old. A comparative newcomer. After the re-
constructing archaeologists found the An-
cients' secret — found it. and were bright
enough to keep it secret, never to mention
it in any public report — a few rules for en-
listing new members were hammered out.
Luckily," he told me with a modest smile
good enough to add to my collection of
modest smiles, "I was judged fit. I passed."
It seemed time to display a little actual
thought. "But if they had it before the war,"
I said, "then there must be people even
older than you — people born before the
beginning of the twenty-first century. The
ones who got the formula before the war,
and managed to survive through it,"
"There are indeed," he said. "I've met
one, though he isn't on Earth now. But I
doubt that there are very many, Jerry. After
proof against a fusion bomb, I suppose—
or against massive radiation damage."
He was positively beaming at me. "I knew
you were quick," he said. "It's a combi-
nation of elements, plus a radiation treat-
ment, meant to encourage cellular regen-
eration. Even if I were shot, say, I might
regenerate quickly enough to stay alive.
But you're quite right. A fusion bomb
wouldn't be survivable, and massive fall-
out would probably be too much for the
regenerative faculties. Not that we have
those worries nowadays, not with proper
He stopped He was waiting for my next
line, so I gave it to him. "But why are you
telling me all this?" I said, displaying a
proper degree of my shrewd wariness.
"I'm telling you. Jerry," he said, "be-
cause I believe you can pass inspection."
The satisfied beam gave way to solemnity
again. "Frankly, I'm sure of it, and I haven't
been wrong about so important a belief
in— well, in at least ninety years. Our meet-
ing was a most happy accident."
"It certainly was," I said fervently. I meant
it, too, for a change. Most sincerely.
"In fact," he was saying. "I want you to
meet our Dr. Royce. You see, Jerry, no one
member of our — ah— group can admit a
new candidate. At least two must agree.
and Royce, Ihe dear chap, happens to be
not only on Earth, but right here in the cap-
ital right now."
I stared at him as if he'd turned into an
ostrich. "You mean — if you and this — this
Dr. Royce — agree on me . . ."
He nodded, very slowly. "You'll be given
the formula at once— if possible," he said.
'A drink, with instructions for concocting it
again if you must — though we have cen-
ters on several planets, and you'll be pro-
vided with a list. You'll need a refresher
dose of the formula every twenty years or
so. The radiation treatment is required only
"You mean that's all there is to it?" I said.
maintaining the stare".
"That's all," he said, with a fine, slow,
casual smile. "Except for the dues, of
course, which are payable every twenty
years, when you get your new dose. The
money goes toward supporting those cen-
ters, as well as the plantations where we
grow what we require for the formula. You'll
be told where those are, too, of course . . ."
He stopped for a second or so, and then
added, 'And the dues can be waived, nat-
urally, in cases of hardship."
I swear, it hurt him even to say that. If
he'd meant it, it might have killed him. But
I let it pass. "No problem there," I said,
heartily. "As you deduced, I'm quite suc-
cessful ... in the world's terms. Dues? Why.
who wouldn't pay every cent he could
scrape up, for — "
"Keep your voice down," he snapped. It
was a very good snap: testy, authoritative,
anxious. I appreciate talent of all sorts.
So I said. "Oh ... of course," in a whis-
per, and looked frightened, and peered
around The inn wasn't crowded; at its
prices, it seldom is. We were a fair distance
from the nearest visible human being.
"But — can you give me any idea when I
might — might meet your Dr. Royce?
"I thought you'd be impatient," he said,
"Most successful men have that sort of
drive. They feel that there's never enough
time." He gave me a forgiving smile for
having raised my voice, or for being im-
patient, or both. "Mow, of course, there will
be time enough for everything."
I went on being frightened. "There might
be— if I pass." I said hopefully.
The smile became a positive sunburst.
Harrison had about half a man's weight,
and three men's charm. "Don't worry about
a thing," he told me. "Believe me, you're
as good a candidate as I've ever seen."
And. after the slightest pause, "By the way.
are you staying here?"
"The Regency? No," I said, truthfully. "I've
rented my own apartment, downtown, I find
it more convenient when I must be in the
city. In facl, I was just here to begin killing
an evening." All true, within limits. I did have
an appointment, a bit later, but it was
breakable: she was lovely, but she was also
understanding. And I saw no particular
harm in forcing my new friend's pace.
He frowned in thought, an effect not quite
as good as his testy snap had been. "Well.
since you have the evening free," he said
after a time, "and Dr. Royce is in the city
suppose I go and see what can be
"By all means," I said, and he nodded
and left me,
I sal there finishing my c. m e:. II had been
a long time since I'd run into the immor-
tality racket— Ihe losl art of cellular regen-
eration, complete with nice, high dues, that
had been located among surviving papers
or tapes of the pre-Space, pre-Clean-3late-
War human race. I'd almost thought of it as
dead, which would have been a shame: a
good con is a work of art, and It's nice to
know that even the old numbers are still
around. And so far, good old Duncan Har-
rison was playing everything according to
And — who knows?— maybe there was
such a thing, back in the misty twentieth
century. Cellular regeneration, and anti-
gravity: the Ancients were supposed to
have had both. Nobody knows for sure, of
course, and the chances are that nobody
ever will. Two hundred years of recon-
structive archaeology is a helluva lot of
hunting, and anything that hasn't turned
up probably won't.
I entertained myself with thoughts like
that until, after eight or ten minutes, Dun-
can came bustling back in. I snapped to
my feet at once. Eager? Hell, I was prac-
tically straining at the leash.
He was beaming again. "We're in luck,"
he told me. "If you can be here tonight at
ten o'clock — "
"Here?" I said. "In the Inn?"
"Dr. Royce's room," he said. "He has digs
here at the Regency — finds it a change
from lab work, I imagine." He gave me the
room number, and I promised to be there.
"And, Jerry," he said, "I'd advise— well,
the formula's rather delicate. The drinking
you've already done won't hurt matters, but
no more between now and ten."
It was a solid, convincing touch. "Of
course." I said. "No trouble at all."
"Very well, then. I'll expect you at ten.
I want to tell Dr. Royce about you, of
course . . ."
"Of course," I said.
He gave me his biggest, brightest smile.
and I shook his hand. He had a firm, hon-
They always do.
I made two calls. One was to my ap-
pointment, who was understanding. When
I explained what was going torward, she
was overjoyed and wanted to pitch in and
help, but I couldn't find a slot for her She
didn't much like that, but she did accept it
at last, with my promise that she'd be the
first to be tapped when any little jobbie
came along that called for the Eternal Fe-
male. She owns a fine spirit of fun, which
is one reason she was my appointment that
night in the first place.
Then I went on home and discovered
that I'd been inspired. Nothing like the
prospect of immortality to liven up a man.
I began cooking the best dinner I'd eaten
in several months, found a good wine to
go with it. and then, regretfully, put the wine
back into the rack. If you're going to do a
thing, do it right.
I did compensate a little, with a pot of
gunpowder green tea after dinner. Away
back, two or three centuries before the
Clean Slate War, there had been talk that
the stuff was a hallucinogen. It isn't, as far
as I know, but I keep hoping. And the lovely
stuff is one of my belter cravings
I washed dishes, thought about a little
light dusting, and decided there wasn't time.
Some people collect stamps, and some
ski. Me, I'm a housekeeper by avocation.
I've got aTotum and a couple ot small Rob-
bies slaved to it, but I do for myself unless
I feel depressed or turn out to be just too
damned busy. That night, I turned up busy;
besides, the apartment really didn't need
And then it was nine-thirty. Time to head
back to the Regency.
Dr. Royce was awfully good for the part.
At ten o'clock on the nose, he flung the
door open in response to my knock and
barked at me, "Yes'' What's this? Who are
you, boy 9 "
I took myself aback, about six inches.
"My name is Gerald Knave," I said. "Mr.
Harrison — "
He actually snorted, emitting a rare sound,
and a surprisingly unpleasant one. "Oh, yes,
Duncan did mention that," he said. "But I've
a great deal on my mind just now. I'm alraid
it's quite impossible. Perhaps some other
time. A few months, possibly a year ... I'm
sorry, Mr. Er-um, but—"
Still aback, I said, "But — " and Harrison
came in, right on cue.
"Now, Carlos, "he said soothingly. "We've
just got to make the lime. We don't find a
new candidate every day, you know."
"Hrnpf." Dr. Royce said. "I am not at al!
convinced — "
"But I've told you — "
"Yes, yes, Duncan," he sighed. "I know."
There was a long pause, during which I
tried looking eager, uncertain, nervous, and
one part irritated, to keep up the success-
ful, shrewdly wary, man-of-the-world fla-
vor. "Well," the good doctor said at last.
"come in, sir. I suppose we shall have to
speak with you, at least. Duncan is simply
not given to such unusual fits of — ah — en-
thusiasm.'' He stepped back from the
doorway and I went in.
As I say, awfully good for the part. He
wasn't quite up to my own six leet, but he'd
have dressed out a good bit heavier than
my one-seventy-five or so. White hair in a
thick shock, beetling eyebrows, and a
square, choleric face; an ill-fitted jumper
covered with odd-experiment stains and
the like, and a voice like a pipe organ with
a slight case of asthma, set to bourdon —
solid, low, and a trifle wheezy. No glasses,
by the way: a good touch. You expect a
"Dr. Royce" to be wearing eyeglasses of
some sort, and their absence makes the
effect a good deal stronger. He's not your
expectable, 3V doctor-type, so he must be
In any case, I was ready and, by God,
even panting to be convinced. I stepped
in and looked round, wondering idly how
much my dues payment was going to be.
Judging from Royce's room, it would be
The Regency is by no means the posh-
es! of hotels, but it is by no means a dog.
Call it medium-luxury: a lot of people trav-
eling on business, a few newlywed cou-
ples, a little of this and that, and a lot of
top-class convention business. An ob-
vious place, when I came to think about it,
for people like Harrison and Royce to troll
And Royce had one of the better rooms—
a single, but a big one, a double bed, mir-
rors here and there, an immense dresser
that looked so much like real wood it might
have been, a few chairs, one closet door,
one door to the obvious bath.
And, of course, the Apparatus. One whole
corner of the place looked like a set for a
wildly extravagant Mad Scientist show.
Tubes and bottles, dials and meters and
you name it. all arranged on two tables and
part of the floor. It was very impressive,
and quite a lot of the stuff was at work-
bubbling or fuming, mostly. Its basic odor
was banana mixed with rubbing alcohol.
Just odd enough to be convincing.
Harrison came forward to meet me.
'Uerry!"hesaid. "Good to see you!" I gave
him a grin like a weak highball: two-thirds
neutral irritation and one-third wry. "Oh,
Carlos — " he said, and waved a forgiving
sort of hand. "You'll have to excuse him.
He's a good deal younger than I. He gets
upset more easily."
"Upset?" Royce said, still the choleric
mad scientist. "1 am not upset. But, my dear
Duncan, we know nothing about this man.
He might be anyone. He might be some
plausible fool. What we have is of great
value, you know."
Of course they had done their checking,
and they'd found, since I'd last seen good
old Duncan, what 1 wanted them to find.
Legitimate parties checking on me gel
legitimate answers. These two charming
people wouldn't have known the right
questions, or the order in which to ask them.
My files are a matter of public record, as
far as any citizen's are, but there are two
Governments need Survivors once in a
while, and they do tend to appreciate the
work, if you bring it to their attention loudly
enough. Once in a while, I can make some-
thing out of such gratitude, though it sel-
dom turns out to be money. I can't touch
any other listing, but I can just nudge my
I'd depended on the checking. They'd
showed admirable attention to detail, after
all— that bit about Royce being younger
than Harrison, for instance, when he looked
easily ten years older. All in all, they were
just short of the top bracket.
Royce, still gruff and still obviously re-
luctant — you never sell the mark, you let
him buy — asked me to submit to some
questions, and I found a chair and sat down.
The inquisition was predictable: what I do
for a living and how well I do at it were the
central points of interest, though the scene
d up with a fair number of psy-
chological-type queries. "Which would you
rather be. an ostrich or a penguin?"— that
sort of thing.
They got the answers that tilted the rec-
ords they'd tapped, the ones that have me
in investments and doing well in a some-
what-above-medium range The ones that
have me never setting loot off Ihe planet,
for thai matter.
Royce was quite convincingly reluctant.
which meant that it took him an hour of this
sort ot gulf to become convincingly con-
vinced I occupied myself, while reeling out
answers and attitudes (I chose the pen-
guin, if you care— being in character), with
trying to guess the figure they had me
"The radiation treatment will be tomor-
row. ' Royce said at last, a little regretfully.
I thought, since I'd let it be known that I
could lay my hands on a fair lot of coarse
cash more or less instantly. But I'd figured
on the delay; putting the mark on the send
gives him a chance fo develop even more
eagerness, and gives the happy con men
a final chance to check on any nosy, un-
bought, law types. "And I must warn you."
he went on, "that the dues are high. Main-
taining our plantations, our centers, re-
quires a good deal of money in these
"Some day soon." Harrison said, "we
should simply move— all of us in the
group — lo our own planet. A planet of im-
mortal beings . .
A wondrous thought. "Money doesn't
matter," I snapped, lying in my teeth.
"What's money, if I can use it to buy— well,
to buy life with?"
"Exactly," friend Duncan told me, smil-
ing paternally. And. as you will discover,
your— ah— new perspective will be a great
help in making more money."
I nodded, judiciously. "I can see how that
might be." I said. "But. well, what are the
dues?" I asked that dne just as casually as
"Five hundred thousand dollars," my dear
friend said, in a perfectly even voice.
And, damn it. I'd lost my bet. I'd figured
them for seven-filly.
It developed that I was to meet them at
the radiation center at ten-thirty in the
morning. I got the address, and a caution
not to mention the Secret to a single soul.
"Of course not!" I said, wounded at their
lack ol faith. "I'll tell my bank — well, I'll tell
them something. Something quite plausi-
ble, you know. But as lor this— of course
After a few more seconds of this-and-
that chat, the door shut, leaving me back
in the corridor
Oh. I nearly forgot to mention that I'd had
my formula. It was sort of a deep yellow
with purple swirls, and it fizzed a bit. Six
ounces, more or less. It tasted like plain
soda mixed with oregano. a brand new ef-
fect for my palate, and nol one I was anx-
ious to repeat.
I didn't think the stuff could hurt me any,
After all. they wanted me in the pink of con-
dition in the morning. After that, they'd be
gone, and it wouldn't matter, and practi-
tioners of the large con tend to attacks of
nervousness at the thought of actually
hurting someone — physically.
Maybe, I thought, it would be a hallucin-
ogen when it mixed with the gunpowder
tea I remembered something about oreg-
ano. Or marijuana. Or something of the son.
LSD? DNA? PreSpace bourbon?
No such luck, But Ihe game was fun
enough on its own; I didn't need stimu-
lants. At any rate. I didn't need chemical
I checked the time, once I was safely out
and away; nearly midnight. There'd been
more lalk and filler than I'd realized How-
ever, I could still make a call . . .
My previous appointment, I was in-
formed, would dearly love to hear how
matters were coming along, and why didn't
I drift along to her place and tell her all?
Why not? I decided-
And she was delighted And so was 1
The place turned out to be a run-down
sort of building near Ihe edge ol the city,
which was disappointing. But apparently
they couldn't run their radiation whatsit off
Ihe hotel's power And the place -to- place
gimmick is always a good idea in any case;
it gives the mark the impression that he's
involved with a large outfit, with planta-
tions, maybe, just about everywhere.
As instructed: a white plastic door with-
out identification, on the second floor. Friend
Duncan had said: "We don't advertise our-
selves, ot course." Of course. Maybe they'd
just found a vacant spot and weren't even
Dr. Royce answered my knock, looking
jusl as testy as ever. He let me in without
It was a big. bare room with a large, white
Something in the center. The Something
looked a little like a truly ancient X-ray ma-
chine crossed with a gigantic 3V editor. Or
a silent-movie editor, to keep everything in
the same generation. It had a wooden chair
set between two large screens, a big light
above the screens, and a great many dials
and meters. Loving care, two or three hours
ot it, had gone into setting it up.
Harrison was standing next to the Some-
thing. "Ready?" he asked.
I gave him my very best nervous-but-
courageous smile. "You mean — this is it?"
I said, quavering just a trifle.
He looked at me, reassuringly. 'Just sit
down, Jerry," he said. "Dr. Royce will give
you the treatment. It won't hurt a bit, I
I headed for the chair. Halfway along, I
stopped and said, "Oh, there is one thing."
"What is it?" Royce asked from behind
me, even more testily.
"The dues," I said apologetically, "as you
said— in cash—"
"Since the transaction must be quite se-
cret," Harrison said.
"Certainly," I said.
I stood there. I fished in an inside pocket.
I began to bring out a large envelope full
of perfectly real money.
Royce was now at my side. Harrison was
in front of me, maybe four steps away.
I had little trouble getting the envelope
out of my pocket.
And there was a knock on the door. Har-
rison and Royce stood like statues, silent,
not breathing. After what seemed to be
several years, the knock was repeated.
"They musl be looking for someone else,"
"Certainly," Royce said, with great calm.
"Now, to continue — " His hand was out.
I was holding the envelope by then, al-
most carelessly. Not quite.
The knock came again. A voice said, "Dr.
Royce? Dr. Carlos Royce?"
He had the grand manner. He turned to
face the door without a tremor, "Who is
thai?" he said in an even voice
Harrison was a little pale. I pretended
not to notice.
'A group member," the voice said. A nice,
young tenor. "I don't know you — but radia-
tion treatment shouldn't be necessary, or
desirable, if the subject is under sixty-three
standard years of age. Please, let me in."
Absentmindedly, I'd slipped the enve-
lope halfway back into thai inside pocket.
Harrison was staring at it. Royce stood still,
his face a gaping mask of indecision, but
after all, what the hell could he do? Ignor-
ing the voice wouldn't make it go away.
What if the voice belonged to a police
officer who hadn't, somehow, been squared
away, and was ready, by now, to beam his
damned way in?
Royce could open the door. Or cut his
throat with something or other. So he
opened the door.
The kid outside looked just over twenty.
He gave the room one comprehensive
glance. Whatever he was. he wasn't law.
"I overheard the talk," he said. "Yester-
day, in the Regency Inn. And, of course, I
had to check up later . . . privately, I assure
you. This radiation treatment . . ."
"You couldn't have overheard," Harrison
said. "You weren't there."
The boy grinned. "You simply didn't no-
tice me. People don't, when I don't want
them to. Its a talent one can develop. You've
got more than the rudiments of it, as you
should have. And my hearing, of course,
is extraordinarily acute. It gets that way after
three hundred and twelve years of treat-
Royce was still speechless. The grand
manner had carried him as far as it could.
Harrison said, "Three — hundred — and — "
"Of course," the boy said. "You're not
members I recognize, and I don't know what
tests you've given this man." He pointed
at me in an offhand way, and I shrank a
little. "As to all this about radiation treat-
ments — please, do you mind if I check your
"I— we don't have the — the — " Harrison
look a deep, deep swallow. "We gave it to
him — last- — night — "
The boy nodded. I said, helpfully,
sounding boih puzzled and halfway scared,
"I could describe it, anyhow," He nodded
again. I described it. Even unto ihe damned
"But that must be all wrong!" the boy
said. "Sir — Mr. Harrison — I don't under-
stand — "
"That's the formula I drank," I said.
"Well," the boy said. He shut the door
and stood against il, looking thoughlfully
at the three of us. "I don't see how. This
can't be the real thing at all."
Harrison said fitfully. "But — perhaps we—
The boy's face went hard.
"You see," he said softly, "there were a
few survivors, after the war. Not many. De-
velopment only came in 1990. And if was
a bad time. A bad time," His face went
quite still and his eyes shut. Nobody else
moved or spoke, "But there were a few.
And Ihere are groups I don't know of, so I
assumed it could happen that — "
"This is another formula," Harrison said.
"Separale lines of development — " He was
recovering, a litlle.
"No. it isn't possible, "the boy said. "Any-
thing with a ftzz— and yellow — no such drink
could have a regenerative effect. The
number of compounds which would have
such qualities is derivable, of course. Dr.
Royce, you must know of many."
Dr. Royce made a sound that might have
turned into speech if we had all given it an
hour or so. Instead. I cul in, "But if it isn't
"You're doubting me. of course," the boy
said. "Well, is there any one of you wilh
Royce made his sound again, and then
echoed, "With official — "
The boy nodded, "Oh, not a law agency.
Believe me. But, you see, the way most of
us do manage is to live a life for sixty or
seventy years, aging with makeup and
some special aids, and then we arrange to
'die,' one way or another, and start again
somewhere else, at our 'normal ages. As
you can see, I've just begun again, and it
struck me that I could disclose my last in-
carnation to anyone who could check the
identification with an official source. It mighl
remove any doubt."
The law was still on their minds. Un-
doubtedly, the fix was in; when it isn't, a
good con will not operate. But perhaps il
wasn't in far enough.
Harrison was a stuck record. "But— but —
"You people are clearly not group
members," the boy said. "And we do
have to limit our numbers. But we need
intelligence — audacity — inventiveness —
flexibility — all of which are genetic traits. I
can check for that, if you'll allow me."
Nobody thought of not allowing him. For
twenty years old. he had enormous pres-
ence The sort of presence you might ex-
pect of someone three hundred and twelve
years old, say.
He took out a small penknife and some
glassex slides. He jabbed my finger first,
then Royce's, and then the reluctant Har-
rison's, washing the knife with a damp cloth,
smelling of disinfectant, between the jabs.
He got us on the slides.
He fished in his pockets again, when the
knife was away, and took out a small gadget
with a light in it. It looked like a miniature
microscope, with ambitions toward be-
coming an octopus some day.
"Gene patterns in every cell," he mur-
mured. "These will do quite nicely."
He spent a long time staring at (he three
glassex slides. When he looked up. he
asked. "Does anyone here have official
"For what?" Harrison said. He was still
pale. Royce was just bewildered, as if his
partner had suddenly turned into a giant
hamburger, hold the pickle.
"Fingerprint check," the boy said. "As I
proposed. I'll tell you my present name,
and my last one. You can get fingerprints
for both, statted over any phone that will
take stats, and compare for yourselves. Your
source may have blink-comparator de-
vices, or other mechanisms that will make
identification quite certain. But I must cau-
tion you to keep the motive for your curi-
osity to yourselves. If anyone here has . . ."
Harrison looked at Royce. and Royce re-
turned the favor. But the boy clearly wasn't
law — a fact which was, at last, sinking in.
"I might — the local police — " Royce be-
gan at last.
As I said, the fix had to be in. Royce,
Harrison, and several local police officers
just had to be close friends.
"Fine," the boy said. "I was afraid it might
be Mr. Knave."
I said it; "Afraid?"
"Because I must tell you to leave now."
he said firmly. "I don't think I have dis-
closed anything so vital that I must kill you.
If you tell the story, you won't be believed.
But, well, I'm afraid you simply do not—"
"And these men— if they aren't real — " I
The boy sighed, "I am sorry." he said.
"But, after all, two out of three! Gene pat-
terns are conclusive. Originality, flexibility
. . . at that, it's a real coup! One every cou-
ple of years is closer to the average."
"Now, wait a minute," I said, but Harrison
and Royce cooperated in getting me out
of there. Gently, politely, and very rapidly.
I heard the boy say: "Of course you two
will have to take new names — new identi-
ties. I think you must be used to that. But
we'll help, as we always do. As for your
illegal activities, we've no interest in that.
We take the long view. In fact, your profes-
sion ought to be looked into. The qualities
that go into such an 'invention' are, as you
now know, the qualities we most require."
The door shut, leaving me on the out-
side. I didn't stay to listen. It didn't seem
wise. I was home in half an hour.
No immortality tor Gerald Knave. I des-
perately needed consolation I brewed
some strong, magnificent coffee, and I
made a phone call, and soon I was not
She loved the coffee, of course. Most
people do. It's a talent. I will try to teach
anybody who wants to learn, but failure is
frequent. As with any other art form, the
real basics can't be taught.
He showed up a few hours later.
"They had it, back in the hotel," he said.
"Three hundred thousand apiece."
I shrugged. "Fair."
"Fair, hell," the boy said. "I ought to get
half a million out of this one."
I shrugged again. "Chalk the rest up to
entertainment. Didn't you love the mad sci-
"Mostly torn down when I goi there." he
said. "They were moving out. naturally.
But — oh. all right — call it even.'' He gave
me a thick cash bundle. I still had the one
Id brought along to the radiation center. I
felt incredibly rich.
"Maybe next time it'll be bigger."l said.
"Maybe," he said. "I gather there'll be a
next time — whenever you happen to feel
like being entertained? Not that you need
the money — "
"I always need the money." I said stiffly
"Sure," he said. "The style to which you
keep trying to get accustomed . . . Weil.
I've got to get out of here anyhow. Got a
date, and after that. I think I might head tor
another continent for a while At the least "
It sounded like a sensible idea. "Where
did you tell them to go?" I asked.
"Peru, Indiana," he said. "A couple ot
rooms . . . registering as Royce and Har-
rison. Wait two weeks for contact by a group
member with proper equipment. I could only
give them the preliminary dose."
The dose consisted of gunpowder tea,
brewed with hot peppers. I'd thought of
adding oregano, but it seemed a bit too
much, somehow. I had a question, but my
lovely appointment got there first.
"Why Peru. Indiana?" she asked, fasci-
nated by me, by the boy, or by the money.
Probably, I told myself, by all three; she
The boy shrugged at her. "Why not?" he
She laughed. She was still laughing when
the boy left— a valued friend at twenty-three,
and thank God for him.
"Tell me," she said. "Fingerprints. Not
even you can tamper with someone's file.
and he hasn't got your connections—"
"I did no tampering," I said. "Didn't have
to. Look, although the odds against two
sets of fingerprints matching are some-
thing like twenty billion to one, there are
files existing trom maybe 1900 to date-
files that were stored very neatly through
the damned war. even — and those files in-
clude a helluva lot more than twenty billion
She stared. "But—"
It had been a popular word all day. "Peo-
ple don't realize it." I said. "Not even the
police. And they won't, until they tangle with
a case that rubs their noses in the fact.
Fingerprints are old, solid, established,
standard identification. And my young
friend, it seems, can be identified— accu-
rately — as himself, and as a man who died
four years ago. age eighty-seven. In Chi-
cago, as I recall."
"Really?" she said. "I mean— legiti-
"Legitimately." I told her. "Believe it or
not, I tripped over it by accident. I was
looking into hereditary fingerprint patterns
and set a small computer to pull everything
matching inside a fairly close range. And
this kid's file popped out. Truly a good kid,
and he loves his work. He's developed into
a helluva actor— I never doubted him in
that room. Not that there was anything to
doubt. I knew. But. clearly nobody else
doubted him either, for evidence of which — "
I waved the money at her. Waving bundles
of money at lovely women is an interesting
hobby. "He's got awfully good at the thing,
though of course we still need the identi-
fication as a clincher."
"But don't people ever check with one
another?" she asked. 'And, well, if they do.
and if they realize — "
I smiled: total relaxation. "They keep it
secret," I said. 'As requested. Damn it. I'd
send them on their way convinced they
were already immortal, it I didn't think I'd
be contributing to the deaths ot people who
might think they could regenerate after a
beam or a slug. As it is. the truth dawns on
them — or something near the truth — in two
weeks, maybe three. In Peru, Indiana. And
after that, they really want to keep it secret,
"Right," she said, giving me back an
"By which time," I said, "we are all some-
where else, of course. And without any need
to take on any actual sort of job for a while."
She sighed and shook her lovely head.
"I will be damned," she said.
"Conceivably," I said — and the rest of
the day is none of your business.
PEOPLE ON BIKINI
PEOPLE ON ATTU
BY WILLIAM TENN
From loudspeakers mounted
on their bows, the space ships
began to blare identical
messages in every human
language . . .
One day Ihe Earth found itself sur-
rounded by space ships.
These space ships were enormous and
completely alien in design; they were op-
erated by power so tremendous that their
approach had not even been suspected
by a single astronomer in the northern or
southern hemisphere The ships had sim-
ply materialized in uncanny multitudes all
about the planet; and there they remained,
with no outward signs of activity, for about
On Earth, naturally, there was a good
deal of activity— some of it frenzied. The
nations buzzed back and forth to each
other, ally reaching out with moist diplo-
matic hand to ally, toe asking tentative, wide-
eyed question of foe.
Newspapers put out extras as fast as
the presses could blink, and television net-
works presented stammering scientists —
all kinds of scientists: nuclear physicists,
botanists, lield archaeologists, anatomy
professors — in a tousled, bewildering
succession Aimless, ugly riots broke out:
churches and revival tents overflowed with
worried worshipers; the suicide rate went
A boating party on Loch Ness swore in
a group affidavit that they had been ap-
proached by a sea serpent forty-eight feet
long. II informed them in impeccable Eng-
lish that it was a citizen of the star Arcturus
and had arrived exactly two hours ago. It
was pro-Labor and anti-vivisection.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PETE TURNER
Everywhere, men. women and children
shaded their eyes and stared hard at those
areas of the sky most distant from ihe sun.
Peepingly. they could discern the outlines
of the strange craft, hanging like so many
clusters of impossibly shaped grapes. In
Ihe dark sections of Earth, the space ships
glowed all nighl around their edges, throw-
ing a thm network of yellow phosphores-
cence against the purple heavens.
People shuflled uneasily and asked their
neighbors, their leaders, even strangers:
"What does it mean? What do they want?"
Nobody had the slightest idea,
A radio-controlled space vehicle, built to
explore the moons of tvlars. was sent up
for a close look at the space ships. Shortly
after it passed the outer limits of the at-
mosphere, it disappeared completely; and
no trace of it was ever found again A min-
ute or so later, every single artificial sat-
ellite orbiting the Earth also disappeared.
No explosions, no blast from a new kind of
ray— just, there Ihey all were one moment,
and there they were not the next.
It became obvious that if the creatures
in the space ships wanted to conquer Earth,
to enslave or exterminate its population,
there was nothing to stop them Mankind's
most powerful countermeasures would
function like a fly swatter putting down a
Nonetheless, nation after nation mobi-
lized, airmen sat tensely in jet planes that
were incapable of reaching one-hun-
dredth the height of ihe space ships, gun
crews of antiaircraft units piled shells near
their weapons and waited lor Iheir radar
operators to give them usable targel in-
struclions. IBM sites, ABM sites, all ballis-
tic missile sites, were put on red alert. Mar-
tial law was proclaimed in Greenland, at
Cape Horn, in the Andaman Islands,
At the same time, men of good will all
over Earth pointed out that Ihe inhabitanis
of the space ships were probably crea-
tures of good will. Their technology was
much, much more advanced than the best
that humanity had— why shouldn't Iheir so-
ciology be equally advanced? If their ma-
chines were belter, why shouldn't their eth-
ics be better, too? Be intelligent, [he men
of good will suggested earnestly; if these
alien creatures had the means to come
upon Earth so suddenly, they could prob-
ably have overwhelmed it in the same
flashing instant had they so desired, No,
the men of good will decided at last, hu-
manity had nothing to fear.
Humanity, stubbornly, continued to fear.
"AH those space ships. What do they
There was a lot of activity in war colleges
and government offices that day and night.
Specialists in every field that in any way
related to communications were collected
by military press gangs and set to work at
devices that might transmit or receive
messages relative to the space ships. Ra-
dio, blinker lights, even telepathy, were tried.
Nothing worked Panic grew.
At the end of twenty hours, each space
ship simultaneously disgorged live smaller
craft. These floated down to the surface of
the planel and. upon landing, began to blare
out from loudspeakers mounted on Iheir
bows Ihe identical message;
"Everybody oil Earth'."
In Tibet, this message was blared in Ti-
betan; in Norway, in Norwegian: around
Lake Chad, in all the numerous Chad di-
alecls: in certain pans of Ihe Uniied States
ol America. "Everbody olfen the Yurth! And
naow!" The message was the same wher-
ever Ihe smaller craft landed, only il was
spoken in Ihe tongue and idiom peculiar
to Ihe region.
"Everybody oft Earth!"
For aboul half an hour ihese words were
screamed at Ihe dumfounded humans who
had gathered around the odd vessels.
Then, abruptly, and all over Earth at ex-
actly the same moment, openings ap-
peared in various parts of these ships, and
metallic creatures with dozens of metallic
tentacles came out. These creatures, it was
apparent to men still able to use their imag-
inations, could be nothing but robots, me-
chanical servants of thinking individuals in
the space ships that still hovered miles upon
empty hundreds of miles above the at-
The robots began to collect people.
They moved to a group of people — they
moved extremely fast — and reached out
with their tentacles, grasping a human
gently but firmly around the waist with each
one. When every tentacle held a kicking
scratching, screaming human, each robot
turned and marched back to its ship, re-
peating forcefully, though a trifle monoto-
nously, "Everybody off Earth— every-
The people were set down carefully in a
kind of hold inside Ihe ship and the robot
left, after snapping the aperture shut be-
hind it. Then it gathered more people, one
lo each tentacle, and brought them, hys-
terical or fainting or rigid with terror, to the
hold of its ship. As soon as the captives
began lo get crowded and uncomfortable,
the vessel would dart upwards and be re-
ceived into the larger ship from which it
had come. There, the robots, still carefully.
almost daintily, transferred the people in
exactly the same fashion — one by one —
to another, but much more immense hold
in the mother ship. This hold had been fit-
ted with tiers of cots like those of a troop
transport, and every cot held a blanket and
pillow made of some unrecognizable soft
white material. When the transfer was
complete, ihe small ships and its crew of
robots went down for another load.
All day, all night, the loading went on. In
the holds of the large mother ships, those
humans already stowed huddled in groups
and stared upwards distractedly. Every lew
minutes, the solid metal ceiling high above
them developed an opening in the center,
through which a bunch of wriggling,
screeching people floated down. Then the
ceiling melted together again and the new
arrivals landed very gently on the rubbery
floor, immediately asking frenzied ques-
tions of the older inhabitants.
What was going to be done with them?
Why? Who was behind all this? Where were
they going to be taken? Perhaps they were
going to be ealen, and the vaulting hold
that slretched enormously about them was
a kind of extraterrestrial pantry?
No one knew. Most of them shivered, ex-
pecting the worst; a few speculated sanely;
but no one knew.
All night, all day, the loading went on. It
was indiscriminate. No human boundaries
were recognized. A load of Portuguese
fishermen was deposited in the midst of a
previous load of Chinese farmers from a
collective in Kwantung. The Roman Cath-
olic fishermen sank to their knees and fol-
lowed an apoplectic Methodist minister from
Albuquerque, New Mexico, in prayer; the
ingratiating young chairman of Ihe collec-
tive farm bustled about organizing a Marx-
ist study group for a squeaking crowd of
stylish matrons from Johannesburg, South
Africa, whose Ladies' Aid Society meeting
had been picked up en masse.
When a hold contained enough people
to occupy all the cots in it, the ceiling
opened no more, and activity moved to an-
other hold or another ship. Thus, half the
Congress of the United States of America
was dropped wholesale into the student
body and faculty of the largest elementary
school in Bucharest, while the other half
vainly tried gaining information and estab-
lishing authority among the surrounding
Madras dirt farmers and the rather puz-
zled inmates of a Damascus prison.
The loading went on for five days and
five nights. Nothing stopped the loading;
nothing delayed it. Guided missiles with
nuclear warheads not only disappeared just
as they arrived at target, but their sources
became the very next object of attention.
Every last launching site in the Arizona
desert and the Siberian tundra was visited
and cleared a few minutes after it fired its
rockets. Here and there, military detach-
ments fought on valiantly to the end, their
commanding officers watching in stupe-
faction as bullets and shells bounced
harmlessly off the alien robots who plod-
ded patiently through murderous enfilad-
ing fire on their way to pick up the occu-
pants of regimental or divisional
A thorough job was done. Submarines
were brought to the surface and emptied
of their crews; men at Ihe bottom of the
world's deepest mine shafts, with their arms
locked desperately about the supporting
timbers, were gently but insistently pried
loose by the robot tentacles and carried to
a last open hold.
Every living human on Earth was laken
up to the alien space ships. But no ani-
mals. The animals all remained behind, they
and the empty fields and the tall forests
and the seas that swirled unendingly along
the white beaches of the world.
When the loading was complete, the
space fleet moved away as a unit. The ac-
celeration was so smooth that few of the
humans even suspected that they were
under way. The space fleet moved away
from Earth, away from our Sun, and plunged
into Ihe black gulfs of the universe.
Except for the shock of being torn from
familiar environments so abruptly, the hu-
mans aboard the ships had to admit they
were not loo badly off. There were several
water fountains in each hold; there were
adequate plumbing facilities: the cots were
quite comfortable and so were the tem-
Twice each day. exactly twelve hours
apart, chimes were sounded and a dozen
large soup tureens materialized in Ihe mid-
dle of the floor. These tureens were filled
with thick white dumpling-like objects bob-
bing in a greenish liquid. The dumplings
and the soup were apparently nourishing,
and acceptable to the palates of a thou-
sand different cuisines — though dismally
boring as a steady diet. After everyone had
eaten, the chimes sounded again and the
tureens vanished: Ihey vanished like great,
moistureless bubbles. And then there was
nothing to do but wander about, try to learn
your neighbor's language, sleep a little,
worry about the future a little— and wait for
the next feeding.
It trouble started, as for example be-
tween a factory of Australian steel workers
and a tribe of Zulu warriors over the favors
of some nurses from a Leningrad hospi-
tal — if large trouble, incipient riot, mass
fighting, ever got started — it was stopped
immediately. A series of robots would ma-
terialize through the floor, one after an-
other, each one exactly like Ihe other. Each
robot would grab as many individual bel-
ligerents as ils tentacles could hold and
keep them apart until the passage of time
and the ridiculous position in which they
found themselves brought ihe angry peo-
ple back to a state of relative calm. Then,
without making a comment or even a sin-
gle illuminating gesture, the robots disap-
peared, exactly like the soup tureens.
They were certainly well taken care of.
On that point, eventually, all agreed. But
why? For whai purpose?
Certainly, there seemed to be a sinister
overtone to the hospitality they were en-
joying. The care and concern lavished upon
them, not a few noted darkly, were all too
reminiscent of a farmer in a barnyard or a
shepherd with a flock of fat, highly mar-
Or was it possible, the optimists argued,
that these highly advanced aliens were
mixing humanity in the melting pots of the
holds deliberately? Having impatiently ob-
served our squabbling and wars and hom-
icidal prejudices, had they decided with a
kind of godlike irritation to make of us one
cohesive race once and for all?
It was hard to tell. No alien ever mani-
fested himself. No robot ever said another
word, once the holds were closed. Despite
the best efforts of all the inhabitants of a
given hold, despite the untiring ingenuity
of the human race in all of the ships, there
was no communication between the peo-
ple of Earth and their alien hosts for the
entire lengthy voyage.
All they could do was wonder — eat,
sleep, talk, and wonder — as the fleet of
enormous space ships traveled on and on.
They went past star system after star sys-
tem, they went past worlds in gaseous birth
and worlds cracked and dead.
And as the days passed — marked only
by sleep periods and carefully rewound
wristwatches — most people decided that
the complete lack of communication, as
well as the casual way they had been han-
dled, suggested a contempt that was very
Many great and minor changes took
place among the inhabitants of the holds.
The young Danish housewife who had been
separated from her husband and children
grew tired of fighting off the advances of
the Trobriand Islanders about her and made
her choice simply, in terms of the huskiest
and most importunate of her suitors; the
member-delegates of the United Nations
Security Council gave up trying to effect a
rapprochement with the gabardined fol-
lowers of Chaim ben Judah-David, the
wonder-working rabbi from the Williams-
burg section of Brooklyn, and sat in bitter
isolation in their corner of the hold, an-
nouncing from time to time that they con-
stituted the only world government legally
capable of dealing with the aliens in the
name of humanity as a whole. As soon, of
course, as the aliens asked for such rep-
resentatives . . .
That was the rub, and all felt it to some
degree, and felt it more and more as the
days were marked off into weeks and the
weeks into months. In the bowels of every
one of them — diplomat and devout Has-
idic Jew, pale woman from the shores of
the North Sea and brown man from the
wide Pacific ocean — nervousness about
the future rattled and clattered. What was
going to happen to them? What could the
aliens want with the whole human race?
Most of them did not know exactly when
the ships came to their destination and
stopped. The realization that the voyage
was over came only when the holds opened
above their heads and welcome sunlight
roared in. Except that — once the first wildly
happy cheers had died away — they no-
ticed this was red sunlight, not yellow.
And then there was the debarkation.
Done with much less struggling, of
course, much less screaming and fear-wet
excitement. The robots were almost wel-
comed as they reversed the process of a
few months ago. Men and women, with a
few neurotic or superstitious exceptions,
fought to be the first picked up by the hard,
shining, segmented tentacles and trans-
ferred to the smaller ships that were at-
tached to the sides of the large transports
like so many baby spiders.
When the small ships landed, the human
cargo enthusiastically continued to help the
robots as much as it could in its own un-
loading. Ship after ship, now empty, sped
back to the great fleet above for more hu-
mans, while those who once again found
themselves standing on soil and vegeta-
tion looked about them.
It was not Earth. That alone was certain.
They were on a hard gray planet whose
surface was broken by few of the hills and
none of the mountains that most of them
associated with topography. A rather dry-
smelling grey planet, poor in oceans and
barely stippled here and there with tiny,
lake-like seas. A gusty grey planet without
trees to shush the steady complaint of its
winds. There were only broad-leaved, gritty-
stemmed plants that grew anklehigh.
All the colors were wrong. The plants
looked like sick blue spinach. The sun
above them was a liverish bronze, old and
stained. The sky was made of bile — cloud-
less, featureless essence of thick green bile.
And on the night side, no moon floated
through the absolutely unfamiliar constel-
lations. It was deeply dark on the night side,
and with the darkness a sharp stink belched
from the ground-huddled plants. The stink
was spread efficiently by the ever-wan-
dering, ever-wailing winds.
No, it was not Earth. It was not at all like
Earth . . . Earth, so exceptionally far away.
A Finnish farmer watched a small boy
from Dakar tear off a limp blue leaf and
munch on it experimentally. The boy spat
out the leaf with an explosion of saliva and
wiped his tongue furiously upon his arm.
The farmer prodded a shoe into the ground
and worried: Grey dust, that's all it is. What
could I grow in it that I could eat? I don't
have any seeds, but even if I did, could
they grow in this damn dust? A New Zea-
land sheep rancher bit deep into a finger-
nail as he wondered: We didn't bring any
herds with us, but say we had — what in hell
would they be grazing on? No sheep in his
right mind would go near those blue weeds.
A Bolivian mining engineer arose from an
examination of the soil and said to his
nightgowned wile: "My first impression, and
a pretty strong one, is that this planet is
rich in copper — and not much else. Not
that there's anything wrong with copper,
you understand, only there's just so much
you can do with it. You can't make type-
writers out of copper . . . You can't make
automobiles or airplanes out of copper."
Men looked around in vain for wood that
could be used to build houses, for stone
with which to raise temples and alters and
idols; they saw nothing but the green sky,
the blue plants, and the grey, grey soil.
Fishermen peered anxiously into the tiny
seas and saw nothing swimming, nothing
crawling, nothing wriggling; they saw only
seaweed, purplish-blue seaweed floating
in thin, ragged patches.
A little boy from Chattanooga. Tennes-
see, toddled up to his mother where she
stood talking in a low voice to a group of
worried neighbors. He tugged at her skirt
until he attracted her attention. "It's an ugly
world, Mommy," he told her decisively. "It's
an ugly, no-good world, and I don't like it.
I want to go home."
She picked him up and hugged him to
her, but before she could say anything —
while she was still searching for words and
thoughts — the robots started to build.
They came down, the robots, from the
great ships hanging motionless above, each
carrying a section of a prefabricated
dwelling. These they fitted together rapidly
into immensely long barracks, filled with
the familiar cots. Each long barracks held
one shipload of people; each was fur-
nished with toilets and water-fountains
which bubbled good potable water; each
had multitudes of tiny loudspeakers
mounted along the walls and ceilings.
When they had assembled the barracks.
ihe robots herded the people into them.
They spread their tentacles wide, and ihey
insistently, patiently pushed people ahead
of them through the entrances So many to
a barracks, irrespective of age. sex, na-
tionality, or family connection. When a bar-
racks had been filled, the robots shunted
the very next individual— husband, com-
manding otticer. twin sister— into another
and empty barracks. They were as effi-
cient as ever. and. by this time most hu-
man beings had learned il was useless to
oppose them. The robots did their job well,
gently and courteously for non-sentient
creatures, but as ever, with the single-
minded purposefulness of drones.
The humans sat on the cots and waited
until all ot them were housed. Then the ro-
bots disappeared. In their place came the
familiar soup tureens and the familiar
dumplings. People everywhere ate. They
ate their fill, glancing at each other side-
ways and shrugging their shoulders. They
finished, and the tureens disappeared.
Now. for the firsl lime, the people of Earth
heard the voice of the aliens, the owners
and masters of the robots, the navigators
of the grape-cluster ships.
It was an explanation (at last, at last, an
explanation!) and it came from the many
little loudspeakers in the barracks. II was
given simultaneously in every language ol
mankind— you moved about the barracks
until you found a speaker emitting words
you understood— and it was listened to with
great, almost frantic attention.
To begin with, the aliens explained, it was
necessary for us to understand how highly
civilized they were. That was very impor-
tant. It was the foundation, it was the basic
reason for everything they had done. They
were a civilized race, enormously civilized,
anciently civilized, civilized beyond our most
poetic dreams of civilization.
We. as a race, were on the first stumbling
steps of that civilization. We were primitive,
insignificant, and — if we might pardon them
for saying so — slightly ridiculous. Our
technology was elementary, our ethical and
spiritual awareness almost nonexistent.
But we were a race of living creatures
and we did have a speck, a promise, of
civilization. Therefore, they had no alter-
native: they had to save us. They had to
go to all the trouble and expense we had
witnessed and would witness in the future.
As civilized creatures there was absolutely
nothing else they could do.
We should know that not all creatures in
the universe were as civilized as they. Wars
were fought, weapons were used. They
themselves had recently developed, purely
for purposes ol self-protection, a new
weapon. . . .
It was a frightful weapon. 3 shailering
weapon, a weapon that smashed the con-
stituents of time and space in a given area.
They sincerely hoped never to have to use
that weapon in actual warfare. Still, one
never knew to what lengths an uncivilized
enemy might go.
The weapon had to be tested.
It was impossible, given the terrible na-
ture of the weapon, given its totally unpre-
dictable aftereffects, to test it in any densely
populated section of the galaxy. Further-
more, in order to get a clear and scientific
picture of Ihe weapon's potential military
value, il was necessary to destroy an entire
planet in the course of the test.
The aliens had selected the site very
carefully. They had selected a sparsely
populated solar system, a very unimpor-
tant plane! inhabited by an extremely
backward race — a race so backward, in
facl, that it was just now beginning to de-
velop space travel. They had selected, in
other words, a world of no conceivable
value to anybody consulted, a world that
no other race in the galaxy deemed at all
desirable, an absolutely useless, second-
rate nonentity of a world— our Earth.
Here they would test their weapon. They
would test it on a world whose total obliter-
ation would not be noticed anywhere.
But Earth was inhabited by a race which
had intelligence wilhin, at least, the widest
definilion of the term. And the aliens were
civilized, highly civilized, ultimately civi-
lized. They could not just destroy another
race out of hand, no matler how primitive
it might be. They had a responsibility to life
itself, to the future, to history.
So they had done this enormous, this
expensive, this altruistic and unheard-of
thing. At a cost so overwhelming that it could
not be expressed at all in the limited fig-
ures of human economics, they had evac-
uated our entire planet.
They had carried us all the way across
the galaxy (hang the expense! never mind
the expense! when they did a thing, they
believed in doing it right!) to another planet
which, while uninhabited, was as much like
Earth as anything they could find in the
Its size and weight were almost exacfly
the same as Earth's— so we didn't have to
worry about any difference in gravity. Its
distance from the sun, its periods of rev-
olulion and rotation were quite similar— our
day-night systems and calendars would be
All in all. a wonderful new home.
Of course, there were some changes: no
two planets were exactly alike. The atmo-
spheric elements existed here in slightly
different proportions: the water, while not
poisonous, was effectively undrinkable: il
would not be possible for a good long time
to grow any edible plants in this soil. And.
no doubt we had noticed, there weren't any
animals on this world, nor were the mineral
resources susceptible to exploitation by any
techniques we had developed to date.
However, taking the good with the bad, the
bitter with the sweet, one way or another,
sooner or later, they knew we would man-
age. We had a brand new planet, a com-
pletely untouched planet, a virgin planet,
all for our very own.
All we had to do was to learn how to use
Meanwhile, ihey would noi desert us.
Hadn't ihey fold us how civilized they were?
No, however long it look us to get on our
feet and become self-supporting, their ro-
bots would be there to take care ol us. We
could use the barracks (they were made
of almost indestructible material) until we
figured out a way to make some other kind
of home on this world. And the soup kitch-
ens would be running, day in and day out,
serving the good white dumplings de-
signed especially for us until we devel-
oped some other more indigenous source
But all this was for the future. We had
had a long, tiring trip and probably did not
want to worry about practical matters right
now. How abbul a little entertainment?
Something special, something none ol us
had ever imagined we would see.
Television screens appeared on the ceil-
ings of the barracks, and humans turned
baffled, cbnfused faces upwards. Outside
the walls, everywhere, the wind howled
This was a rare treat, the aliens ex-
plained through the loudspeakers, a once-
in-a-thousand-years sort of thing, We would
be able to tell our children and our chil-
dren's children that we had seen it. at ex-
actly the same time as other, much more
advanced races throughout the galaxy.
"Now, for the first time, and at the exact
moment it occurs, you will witness the total
destruction of a world — the planet Earth-
in the course of an essential and epochal
Vickers was in Mogadishu when he turned the comer
hardware stall and nearly knocked down the green won
BY ALAN DEAN FOSTER
PAINTING BY ROBERT GIUSTI
Harley Vickers hated Mogadishu — no!
Ihat he hadn't been assigned worse duty
stations. Kampala under Idi Amin. for ex-
ample, from which he'd barely escaped with
story and skin intact. Or Sowefo. South Af-
rica's massive black slum, an ocean of
misery and despair destined someday to
explode in an orgy of violence the likes of
which Africa had not seen since the time
of the Zulu wars.
No. he'd reported from worse places than
Mogadishu, if not duller ones For fresh fruit.
decent cooking, halfway reliable news
broadcasts, and anything resembling en-
tertainment, you had to take a four-wheel-
drive vehicle south across the border to
Nairobi. Mogadishu was devoid of such
pleasures. His only delight lay in exploring
the virgin beaches which stretched
hundreds of kilometers northward toward
the Gulf of Aden. The seacoast of Somalia
was as beautifully rich as its people were
abysmally, desperately poor.
Poorer than ever because of the debili-
tating effects of the seemingly endless war
with their intractable and equally poverty-
stricken neighbor, Ethiopia, A human tide
of refugees washed back and forth across
the disputed borders of the Ogaden des-
ert, straining to the limits the resources of
an economy that had never been strong.
Vickers was half American, half English.
He'd spent twenty years in Africa for UPI.
twenty years which had blunted his early
idealism by showing him to what extremes
man could go in defense of personal idi-
ocies. White or black, it was all the same.
Hatred instead of understanding. Suspi-
cion instead of conversation. He was tired.
Four months he'd spent in Mogadishu,
reporting on the relief efforts and the Oga-
den futility, He was ready for a change—
a change to anywhere. Cairo, if he was
lucky, or Nairobi, or even frenetic and al-
ways exciting Lagos. Anywhere but here.
he thought as he made his way through
the marketplace toward his apartment. He
was sick to death of the corruption and
arrogance he'd been forced to deal with in
the course of writing his reports. Besides,
he'd said everything there was to say about
the Somalian situation. He'd been in the
business long enough to know when his
work was getting stale.
That's when he turned the corner by the
hardware stall and nearly knocked down
the green woman.
As she stumbled, her veil fell away from
her face, which was as exquisite as an em-
erald, and as richly hued. She hurriedly
fixed the shielding gauze and dashed into
the crowd. A stunned Vickers could only
stare after her.
Then, shoving his way through the mob
of marketers, he was running in pursuit
"Hey . . . hey you, wait a minute! Wait!"
He knew she heard him because more than
once she glanced back to see if he was
still chasing her The crowd was thick and
prevented him from closing, but it also kept
her within view
He lost her on the other side of the mar-
ketplace when she climbed, not into a don-
key cart or camel howdah, but into a late-
model Land Rover. The driver floored the
accelerator and they roared along the nar-
row road, leaving Vickers out of breath and
anxious amid the rising cloud of dust.
The image had not faded, nor had the
shock. The woman's face was vivid in his
mind. It was not her exceptional beauty
that transfixed him, however, as much as
her extraordinary coloring Hers wasn't the
olive complexion of Aegean visitors or the
coffee tone of many multiracial residents
of Mogadishu. She was a bright, cheerful
green— as brilliant as a St Patrick's Day
If it was due to the use of makeup or
body paint, it was the most remarkable job
of either he'd ever seen. When she'd blinked
at him after their collision, he saw that even
her eyelids were the same electric shade
A blessing, a gift from Allah, a reward
for his noble and virtuous life, the taxi waited
for him around the block. It wasn't hard to
pick up the trail of the Land Rover The few
motorized vehicles that utilized the streets
of Mogadishu usually kept to the harbor
front or diplomatic quarter and ignored
these back streets.
The taxi driver earned his fare as they
tracked the fleeing Rover through narrow
brick alleys and down dirt avenues. Only
when the Land Rover emerged from the
city's outskirts did the driver finally con-
cede the race.
"I am sorry, Effendi. The road go no more,
I go no more." His English was broken, but
to the point.
Vickers knew arguing would be futile. In
truth, the driver had pushed his battered
Citroen to its limit. Beyond lay a track suit-
able only for camels and four-wheel-drive
vehicles. The taxi wouldn't last a mile on
that bone-breaking path to nowhere. Vick-
ers watched until the Land Rover sank into
the evening horizon before giving the or-
der to turn about and return to the city.
All night that glowing green face haunted
him. Except for her coloring, the young
woman had classic features common to
this part of Africa— part black, part Arab,
a delicious and exotic mix.
As far as his news assignment was con-
cerned, Vickers had considerable discre-
tion. So long as he filed his stories on
deadline and didn't abuse his budget, he
was free to go where he wished and report
on the subject of his choice. His nearest
superior sat behind a desk on Fleet Street.
I'll give them something interesting to
print, he mused. A bright green lady — yes,
that ought to perk the Times' interest, as
well as that of the Daily News and The Star
It wasn't too difficult to retrace the Land
Rover's progress from the point where it
had fled the city. Cars outside the city lim-
its were as rare as compassion. He was
undaunted by the task he'd set for himself.
Many times he'd spent weeks in the bush,
living in the back of his own Land Rover.
Before leaving Mogadishu he'd packed
in enough food, water and petrol to keep
him going for a month, though he didn't
imagine he'd be gone that long. From what
he'd seen of his quarry, she didn't appear
to be nearly so extensively provisioned.
The road took him through Balad toward
Johar. along the Wadi Shebelle, dry most
of this time of year. The outside tempera-
ture was hellishly hot. The Rover's air con-
ditioner hummed in protest as it fought back
the searing heat.
Inquiries along the road caused him to
turn toward the coast northward before
reaching Johar and then on through Marek
and Harardera. Even a camel track was a
welcome path in the wilderness.
In Obbia an imperious army captain tried
to commandeer Vickers' spare petrol. Only
the waving of his UPI identification and
government pass got him through to Id-
dan. He was nearing Migiurtinia Province
without having closed on his quarry and
began to wonder if he wouldn't have to drive
all the way to Cape Guardafui. He was hot
and tired and seriously considering whether
he ought to pack it in when he saw the
green woman again.
Except ... it wasn't the same woman
He saw her selling fish in one of the tiny
palm-frond stalls lining the dock area of
Garad, a fishing village. Her veil was off —
because of the heat. Vickers surmised.
Maybe she'd been beautiful once, but age
and a hard life had turned her skin to
parchment. She was older than the woman
who had brought him this far, much older.
More intriguing still were the two bright
green children he saw playing on the beach,
dashing down to the water's edge in the
company of other, normai-hued children,
then running back to dance around the
older lady's legs. Their grandmother maybe.
Vickers thought as he brought the Land
Rover to a stop.
The children clustered around it. touch-
ing the sides, bending to inspect the mud-
caked undercarriage Garad was an iso-
lated community and the Land Rover was
as much a novelty as the white man who
drove it. As an astonished Vickers studied
the two green youngsters, all thoughts of
special paint and makeup were discarded.
They were seven or eight years old, a bright-
eyed boy and mischievous little girl, both
of them green from head to toe. Only their
eyes, nails and body hair were exempt from
the remarkable coloring, although the nails
did have a greenish cast to them.
Vickers climbed down, made sure the
door was locked, and smiled at them. They
stared back at him. innocent of deception
or guile. The little girl kept one finger in her
mouth and stayed close to the boy Brother
and sister, most likely.
He cleared his throat and tried his Swa-
hili, hoping it would be enough. His Arabic
was tolerable, his Amharic much less so.
They understood. Vickers asked where
they came from. They pointed inland. Was
that their grandmother over there in the stall,
selling fish? No. an aunt. He hesitated only
momentarily. Why were they such an un-
Because they were fortunate enough to
be among the Chosen.
It was some kind of sect, then. Some-
thing interesting had come lo the wastes
of northern Somalia. Yet there was nothing
reticent in the children's manner, no at-
tempt to hide anything. Mot that there was
any need to They were protected from the
attention of the outside world by an isola-
tion unimaginable to Londoners or even the
citizens of Nairobi. Only a chance glimpse
in a crowded marketplace had sent Vick-
ers probing their sanctuary.
Inland, they said. Could they be more
specific? With camel and jackass the fast-
est local means of transportation, Vickers
knew it couldn't be very far. Surely, Mzungu.
they told him. One has only to follow the
Wadi Omad toward the setting sun to come
to the place of the Chosen, where they lived
with the rest of their village.
Not true nomadic types, then, Vickers
mused. He thanked them and climbed back
into the Land Rover. Laughing children fol-
lowed in its wake as it rumbled forward,
turned eastward beyond the last fish stall,
and headed inland.
The wadi he struggled lo follow was
nearly dry. Only a thin trickle cut its center
like a silver thread, Antelope tied from his
approach. Vickers ignored them.
It was nearly dark when he turned up
out of the little canyon. Lengthening shad-
ows revealed a gentle slope scarred by tire
tracks. They led him up to the beginnings
of the savanna. Thorn trees fought for the
soil's moisture. Scrub brush provided
homes for snakes and kangaroo rats. Tow-
ering above them all were the gleaming
metal skeletons of three windmills.
No Quixote in his Land Rover. Vickers
frowned as he pushed toward the cluster
of mud and rock structures nestled be-
neath the towers There weren't supposed
to be any European outposts this far north.
All the refugee centers were further inland,
along the Ethiopian border, or south to-
ward Mogadishu. Nor could he recall men-
tion of any scientific stations or outposts in
The windmills were of two types. One
served to bring up water, the other two
mounted windchargers for the generation
of electricity. Indeed, it was unusually cool
here. A steady breeze blew up the wadi
from the sea. In the morning the wind prob-
ably reversed as the land heated up again.
A few lights showed inside the largest
building. It was one story, cobbled to-
gether out of corrugated steel sheets, lo-
cal stone, and mud. Lumber was as scarce
in this part of the world as Chateaubriand.
He slowed the Rover to a halt and climbed
out. Set among the brush and trees, off to
his left, was a sizable native village. It looked
deserted As he stood there against the
oncoming African night, a peculiar susur-
ration reached his ears He started toward
it, lopped a low rise, and came to a halt.
What was probably the entire population
of the village — men. women and chil-
dren — lined the crest of Ihe next ridge. They
faced the setting sun with heads back and
arms outstretched. The local witch doctor
or chief was leading them in a hypnotic,
And every one of them was stark naked
and bright green.
A hand tapped the middle of his back.
He whirled, sucking in his breath, his hand
reaching instinctively toward the pistol at
his waist. It stayed holstered as he stared.
It was the woman he'd seen in Mogadishu.
Her veil was gone. So was the stifling
chador. Now she wore khaki slacks, san-
dals, and a bush shirt. Her black hair trailed
behind her. Face and exposed arms and
hands were as green as those of the chant-
ing villagers behind him.
"You are very persistent, sir." she said in
heavily accented English.
His hands moved self-consciously away
from the holster. "What is this place? Who
are you, and who," he gestured toward the
villagers, "are these people? And why does
everybody here look like something out of
a summer salad?"
She hesitated briefly, then laughed and
hid her face for a moment. "You very funny
A sudden thought made him say, "I hope
I didn't offend you in any way."
"You did not. Come." She gestured to-
ward the big house. "You must meet the
For a minute he thought she'd said "Cu-
bans" and he almost panicked. She turned
to smile brilliantly at him. Her teeth were
not pointed and were gratifyingly white.
"Please, sir. You will like them, the old
mister and missus."
Mister and missus. That didn't sound very
threatening. He moved up alongside her.
Besides, he hadn't driven across hundreds
of kilometers of desolation to run away at
the moment of enlightenment.
"Tell me," he said as they approached
the entrance to the major edifice. "Are you
. . are all these people of the 'Chosen'?"
"Oh most assuredly so, sir. That is what
the missus doctor tell us." Then she added
proudly. "My name is Rala. I speak English
and have read real books, so I am assist-
ant to them. It is me they send into the city
to buy things for them."
"Not only do you speak excellent Eng-
lish, Rala, but you are also very beautiful "
"Thank you, sir." She blushed, and her
cheeks turned the most extraordinary color.
There was nothing mysterious about the
room she ushered him into. The furniture
appeared to be of local manufacture,
handmade and comfortable. A radio/tape-
deck rested on a bookcase shelf, playing
unusually muted Chavez. DC-powered
lamps lit the room, drawing energy from
An elderly European lady sat on the
couch, flipping the pages of a paperback
book. She looked up as they entered. So
did the man seated at the desk across the
room. Both were in their late sixties or early
seventies, Vickers decided.
The man rose to greet him. "Hello, hello.
You're the first visitor Mary and I have had
in some time." He smiled and extended a
hand. To Vickers' relief, it was the same
color as his own. "I'm Walter Coban."
"And I'm Mary." said the grandmotherly
woman on the couch.
"Harley Vickers, United Press."
"A reporter. Yes, I think I've read some
of your stories, Mr, Vickers," said Mrs.
Coban. "You've done a lot ot work about
the refugee problem." Vickers nodded "You
strike me from your work as an honest, even
"I write what I see," he said diffidently.
"And what do you see now?"
"Something I don't understand."
She smiled a soft, maternal smile. "You
must be tired, Mr. Vickers. Thirsty and hun-
gry as well. We haven't had company for
dinner in, oh, I can't remember when Mow.
since you obviously haven't come all this
way to return empty handed, we'll have to
supply you with understanding, won't we?
So you must also accept our hospitality."
He couldn't keep himself from grinning
back at her. There was a mystery here, yes,
but hardly danger. Besides, he was sick of
eating out of cans.
"I bow to your demand,"
"Please have a seat." She patted a
cushion. "Here, next to me," Vickers joined
her. Her husband vanished into a back room
and reappeared a moment later, juggling
three tall glasses He gave Vickers one.
The reporter took a cautious sip. then
his eyes lit up and he drank deeply "Lem-
onade! With ice'. Bless you both. Where
did you get this?"
"By boat, from the south." The old man
was smiling. "Rala does what she can for
us in Mogadishu, but you know how limited
the city's resources are. For real food you
have to go farther afield. The lemons came
ofl a trading dhow out of Malindi."
"Excepting seafood," his wife put in. "We
get the most marvelous seafood here. Rala,
lobsters tonight." The girl nodded, looked
unhappy, and disappeared through an-
The thought of a lobster supper already
had Vickers salivating "Really, no need to
go to any expense on my account."
"Expense? My dear boy. lobsters are
cheaper here than onions. Eat your fill,"
The girl's sudden look of dismay had
stayed with him. "When you proposed the
main course, Rala made a face. Doesn't
she like lobster?"
"Not particularly." said Coban. "Matter
of personal taste. It's all what you're used
to, you know."
"I hope 1 never get that blase." Vickers
told him. The cold lemonade had done
wonders for his parched throat. "You
promised me understanding, Mrs. Coban.
For me, that means information and expla-
nations. I sure could use some. What is this
village, and why do its people refer to
themselves as the Chosen'' Why are they
all green, and what the blazes are you two
doing in this godforsaken piece of real es-
tate?" He blinked and wiped his eyes.
Husband and wife exchanged a glance.
Coban sat down in the chair opposite the
couch and explained
"Mary and I did our early work at the
University of Arizona in Tucson, Mr. Vick-
ers. Most of the time we worked at night
and on our own— due to the controversial
nature of our project. We tried to publish,
but met only with skepticism and dispar-
agement. That often happens in science,
and it's no less pretty than in any other
discipline We persisted with our work.
Eventually our funds were cut off and we
had to resign our professorships.
"Our interests lie in the vital field of food
research, Mr. Vickers. in particular as it ap-
plies toward relieving distress in the desert
regions of the world That is why we orig-
inally went to work in Arizona. We worked
for a long time with jojoba and other native
desert plants before we realized we were
attacking the problem from the wrong end,
as researchers have been doing for a
"Six years after we shifted the focus of
our efforts, we believed we had found a
method by which mosl of the world's food
shortages could be alleviated We met with
the same kind of cruel indifference and
hostility which had greeted our earlier work.
It is impossible, Mr. Vickers, to do con-
structive work in an atmosphere of ridicule.
"So we sought a place to work in peace
and apply our theories where they might
do some good. We came here, and our
assistance was needed desperately. Rala
and her people were starving when we
stumbled upon them, Mr. Vickers. The na-
tive residents of Gala are decent human
beings, but you cannot share food you do
"Our project is being funded by several
farseeing. wealthy Arizonans. They have
let us work without interference. Great men,
Mr. Vickers I will give their names later, to
use in the story you will write.
"Am I going to write a story, then?" he
murmured The old man's tale was inter-
esting as far as it went, but he still hadn't
supplied Vickers with any real answers.
Were they putting him off deliberately, or
was Coban simply verbose? He rubbed at
his eyes again The endless, desperately
dull drive had exhausted him. He wasn't
even sure he'd be able to stay awake
"Yes, you are, Mr. Vickers," Coban went
on. "Both Mary and I have agreed that it
is time. Your appearance here might be
regarded as fate, if 1 believed in such things.
And Mary has read your work, and re-
spects it. That's good enough for me. You
will tell the world of our little success out
here in the desert. We have done what we
hoped could be done "
"What's that?" Vickers asked. "Form a
new religion? I saw your bare-assed vil-
lagers out there when I drove up. Songs
don't relieve the emptiness in a mans belly.''
Coban smiled and his wife laughed de-
lightedly. "Oh, Mr. Vickers, the chanting is
for fun. It's not important to the process."
"What process?" Vickers mumbled. He
really was tired, he realized
"They weren't praying. Mr. Vickers."
Coban told him. "They were eating."
Vickers eyed him warily, "Eating? . . .
Eating what 7 "
"Supper, I should think. Old habits don't
His wife watched Vickers sympatheti-
cally. "Perhaps it will be clear to you if I
explain our history in more detail. I am a
geneticist and Walter is a microbiologist.
When we put aside our work with desert
plants many years ago. it was to concen-
trate on plankton Those are the tiny, ocean-
going life forms which support much of the
life in the sea. We thought of releasing
plankton in shallow salt ponds throughout
the world's desert regions and raising it
"While working with this idea we hap-
pened across an interesting and rather
common tittle freshwater coelenterate
named Hydra viridis. This particular hydra,
unlike its relatives, exists in a symbiotic re-
lationship with a wonderful alga called
chlorella. Chlorella is photosynthetic. Mr
Vickers, but it is more than that. In addifion
to producing its own food, it will also pro-
duce enough to keep its host alive.
"When chlorella is not present, the hydra
is forced to eat solid food just like its white
relatives." Her husband rose and exited
through a back door again.
"We became very excited, Mr Vickers,"
she continued. "We thought how wonder-
ful it would be if we could genetically en-
gineer a strain of chiorella to be a symbiont
with man We succeeded. The production
of food per acre of arable land is no longer
a valid problem, Mr. Vickers. Countries lite
India and China can have as many people
as they wish. With our friendly alga as a
partner, everyone on Earth can produce
enough food for his or her own body.
"Think of the peripheral problems our
discovery will solve! Everyone will be a
pleasant shade of green. No more raising
and slaughtering of animals for food. We're
extremely proud of what we've accom-
plished. Mr Vickers Can you blame us 7 "
"If you're so proud of what you've done,
why haven't you and your husband taken
advantage of it 7 Vickers asked "Or is it
suitable only for ignorant refugees? Mind
you. I don't buy a word of it."
"Oh. we wouldn't expect a reporter of
your experience and stature to believe
anything so fantastic wrihout incontrover-
tible proof, Mr. Vickers. Rest assured you'll
have that proof.
'As regards your first question. " Coban
continued "1 am sorry to have to say that
once a person has reached the age of fifty
or fifty-five . we're still not positive where
the line falls the alga does not adapt
to its human host. We believe it may have
something to do with the decreasing pro-
duction of fibroblasts as the body ages
With anyone younger than fifty, there's no
difficulty m inducing the alga to take up
residence m the dermal layers. Further-
more, the alga is transferred via embryonic
fluids to the newborn. Chiorella even re-
sponds to artificial light, which enables one
to produce food at night, if so desired."
Vickers leaned back against the couch,
hardly able to keep his eyes open.
"More lemonade, Mr Vickers?"
Lemonade Cool, icy lemonade. Tired,
so tired. Shouldn't be this tired, drive not-
withstanding. Made up the lemonade m the
other room . . .
"Why?" he said thickly as he slid rapidly
toward darkness. "I thought . . you said
. . . you wanted your story told?"
"Oh, you misunderstand, Mr. Vickers,"
she said solicitously, bending over him and
inspecting his face with a clinical eye. "We
haven't done anything harmful to you. Just
put you to sleep, You need a good night's
sleep, don't you? In the morning you'll have
the proof you require for your story. Think
of the headlines you're going to have. Mr.
Vickers! hunger eliminated! . . . food
SHORTAGES HISTORY! , . . MANKIND SAVED! , , .
Think of it, Mr. Vickers. You're going to be
the most famous reporter in history. You
won't be able to help it. . .
The sun woke him, shooting through the
window shades. He was in bed. a real bed
with a mattress and clean sheets.
Last night came back in a rush. Lem-
onade, chanting, ice. smiling old folks a
little more than what they seemed, drugged,
He sat up fast, relieved thai he could do
so Everything seemed to work. Experi-
mentally he flexed his arms, then his legs.
Everything was in place. The only thing out
of the ordinary was a tingling in his right
forearm, near the elbow.
He looked at his right arm — and
Walter Coban appeared at the door,
looking concerned "You startled us, Mr
Vickers. Are you all right"?'
"All right? All right! Look at me!"
Coban did so. professionally. 'A very nice
shade, Mr. Vickers, if I may say so."
Vickers was holding his head in his
hands, rocking back and forth, moaning,
"Why"' Why me 7 Why did you have to do
this to me?"
"Take it easy Mr. Vickers. You're a Strong
man You'd have to be a strong man to
have survived all these years in Africa You
can handle a little sea change like this.
Besides, the effect needn't be permanent
Were you to spend a few weeks in dark-
ness, your old. useless color would return.
"Don't you recall our conversation last
night 7 You said, despite what you'd seen,
that you didn't believe anything we told you,
We promised to supply you with unargu-
able proof of our discovery. You're going
to need it m order to convince your editors
back in London. This way. they'll believe
you, Mr. Vickers. Even those skeptics in
the scientific community who ridiculed us
will have to believe you. after you've done
nothing but sit in the sun and starve your-
self tor weeks on end without getting hun-
gry or losing any weight. They'll believe
you because you'll be your own proof, Mr.
"Side effects ." Vickers groaned. "What
about side effects?"
"We've studied the symbiotic relation-
ship for many years now. There are no
harmful side effects. Without the change
in skin color, you d never know the chio-
rella was present in your body . . Oh. there
is one thing
"You remarked on our assistant Rala's
apparent distaste for the proposed lobster
supper 7 Her disgust? You ll discover be-
fore long that the thought of ingesting solid
food will make you nauseous, except for
the tasteless vitamin and mineral supple-
ments you have to take. Photosynthesis
doesn't supply quite everything the human
Vickers licked his lips and said mo-
rosely, "but I like eating, f like lobster, and
steak, and fried chicken."
"Superficial pleasures at best. You'll see.
No worrying about what to eat anymore.
Mr Vickers Think of the money you'll save.
Think of the extra time you'll gain each day
In return for spending a little time in the
sun Photosynthesis may not be an exhil-
arating way of obtaining nourishment, but
it's a highly efficient one."
Heedless of his nakedness. Vickers slid
out of bed. There was a half-length mirror
fastened to the far wall. He gazed in
amazement at his lime-green self. Now that
the initial shock had faded, he found the
soft, pastel coloring almost relaxing to look
upon They might not believe right away
when he strolled casually into the London
office, but they would certainly sit up and
He found himself wondering if Rala would
find it attractive
"Try not to take it so hard. Mr. Vickers."
said Coban soothingly "I envy you, you
know Mary and I are the discoverers — fhe
ones who did the dirty, rewardless leg-
work. You are to be the herald of a new
age You should be proud Before you die.
everyone will look like you, Everyone will
be a member of the Chosen."
Coban was right, Vickers knew. The sys-
tem was too efficient, too benign, to be
denied The only problems in gaining
widespread acceptance would be psy-
chological, and he was as sure now as
Coban that these could be overcome. After
all. the human body was already a reser-
voir of living things, from bacteria to more
complex organisms. Why should anyone
object to a few more visitors, especially
visitors as beneficial as chiorella?
It really was a most handsome color, he
Coban saw the change come over his
guest and relaxed. "There, it's not so bad,
is it? We're simply becoming one of our
many fantasies, Mr, Vickers. and what a
promising fantasy it has turned out to be.
We have met the little green men from outer
space, and they are us."
think immortality and its necessary companion, zero-population growth,
the ultimate ideal, but not after reading "Malthus's I
with sensitivity and good storytelling style, depicts a society in which
babies are created only rarely — and only as replacements for accidental
fatalities. Absolute birth control (by the state) is seen to bring widespread
anguish. This is one of those SF stories with numerous, mind-expanding
ramifications. For example, it suggests certain questions: "What kind of
a world would it be without little children?" and "Can there be life as we
know it without death?"
In John Keefauver's story, "buuy do, uymy 10 u
concern. The protagonist is not faced with issues of morality but whether
or not his life is worth living. His problem is having too much of a good
"Prime Time" by Norman Spinrad is a well-pointed tragicomedy con-
cerning an aged husband and wife who choose a retirement of nearly
ously via videotapes. Spinrad's broad-sweeping and satirical allenorv
suggests that you can't get to heaven through a TV sci
"In the Hereafter Hilton" is a story by Bob Shaw in w..,„,
a new mode of capital punishment that at once saves the convicted
murderer from the awful foreknowledge of death while assuaging any
guilt feelings on the part of judge, jury, prosecuting attorney, or public.
A perfect solution, that is if you don't value the truth.
"And Whether Pigs Have Wings" is a morality tale, which surrealist-
ically involves human frailties and suggests that through wondrous ways
this "little world" may still achieve "salvation." Nancy Kress is mistress
of the thoughtful sentence, e.g., "Such men always have cigarettes"
and "Anything too organized will defeat its own purpose."
They had a nearly
perfect world, where babies were
the best possible reward
I he news came while
Janica was light-sculpting, with Sylvie hovering
nervously about the perimeter and trying to
make herself useful,
That was typical of both of them; Janica, at
that point in her life, anyway, lived her art, while
Sylvie's reason for transferring to Pavlova Vil-
lage was to sit al the feet — often literally — of
one of the acknowledged virtuosos of the new-
est and most demanding multidiscipline.
So. characteristically. Janica stood cool and
elegant in her chartreuse paint-dye and pro-
jectors, while Sylvie jittered, checking all the
last-minute details — were the projectors per-
fectly in synch, perfectly centered on wrist and
forehead and ankle, perfectly aligned?— over
and over. (Most light-sculptors were content with
three or at most four projectors, wrists and fore-
head, say, or, more difficult, wrists and ankles.
But Janica was never content with fewer than
five, and sometimes, with a contemptuous ca-
sualness that literally awed her young acolyte,
she added a sixth at the waist.)
But once the music started, it was Sylvie who
stood, unmoving, scarcely breathing, while
Janica's body swayed in delicate interpretation
of the plaintive melody that filled the studio.
PAINTING BY EVELYN TAYLOR
"Greensleeves." sang a poignant young
girl's voice, "is my delight . , ."
And Janica danced, a sad, slow weav-
ing of loss and loneliness; as she moved,
the projectors left their trails of living light,
ribbons of color, thick and dark for slow,
deliberate movements and thin and light
for the quick leaps and pirouettes.
This one, Sylvie thought, this one is going
to be . . .
The strident brr-rrring of a wrist-coin
shrilled through the soft singing, and Jan-
ica jerked, destroying the smoothness of
the furls of solidifying light.
Janica's silver-rimmed eyes widened just
slightly. Then she moved, still with that fe-
line, sinuous grace, to the shelf where her
personal items were neatly placed. But the
red light wasn't blinking; it stared at them.
a continuous crimson leer.
"Override." Sylvie was puzzled.
"Official override." Janica retorted and
smiled slowly, and her thumb pushed down.
"Citizen Janica Petain-Suharto." said the
life-size, vaguely familiar holo-image that
appeared, "as your officially compute-
lected representative . . ."
The news was all over the village in min-
utes, and it was the main topic of conver-
sation for weeks— except among those few
individuals who were, or pretended to be,
indifferent. Janica herself was completely
blase. It was, as she occasionally re-
minded her neighbors, her second time.
Sylvie was positively green with envy. Her
mind kept producing harmless scenarios.
Janica miscalculating one of her unnatu-
rally high leaps, breaking her leg, and being
rushed immediately to a hosp.
The entire village exposed to some mys-
terious neoviral disease (nonfatal and
eventually curable, of course!); only Sylvie,
through an odd mutant quirk in her phys-
iology, both immune and a noncarrier . . .
Even Sylvie knew they were only dreams.
Nothing bad or sad would ever happen to
Janica, proud darling of the powers that
be; or to Phil, either. But who ever noticed
Phil, when Janica. sleek and elegant, was
in view? Besides, this was Phil's first.
"But isn't it exciting!" Sylvie whispered
to her new termhus, Ray.
Ray, older and far more experienced,
yawned and switched channels on the holo
that displayed over their double bed. "Yeah,
sure, but it's not as if we were chosen, hon.
You'd do better to watch it on the holo; you'll
"Oh, pooh, stodgy old thing," she pouted.
'Janica is my friend, I'm sure she'll invite
me to — well . . ,"
"Yuck." He rejected all Ihe choices and
reached for his termwife.
One hour before M-day they officially
closed off all the transmatters in the vil-
lage — except for one, (There were no
fences around the village, but with the
ubiquilous transmatters making another
continent a step away, who knew— or
cared — if the nearest village was physi-
cally a kilometer away — or a hundred?)
As M-day began, in the darkness at least
half of the villagers were crowded around
the single functioning transmatter. The sees
made the people keep a wide opening
around the machine.
At precisely midnight the transmatter
glowed, and shapes solidified. At first the
curious walchers saw only a team of white-
clad medics; but as they moved, glimpses
of a seated carrier, floating at about chest
height, were caught.
The chief medic identified himself to the
security chief. Although both teams worked
in shifts, they had undoubtedly met each
other on numberless similar midnights. Still,
you didn't get to be a security chief by being
careless. All the medics were checked
out — the checks carefully designed not to
break the integrity of the sealed suits —
and the security chief herself ran through
the checks on the chief medic.
Once the checks were completed, the
chief medic took over. Leaving guards at
the transmatter, which would be sealed until
M-day ended, the cortege turned toward
Phil and Janica's cottage.
Phil stood proudly at ihe front of the mob.
As soon as the medic was certified, Phil
stepped forward. "I'm the — "
"Get back," a security guard snarled,
just as if he hadn't helped check Phil out,
along with the rest of the watchers, not half
an hour before.
Phil stopped, puzzled, his feelings hurt.
"But I'm the — " he began again, nervously
backing off the grassy path and into the
nighl-blooming mooncreams that lined it.
crushing some of the fragile flowerets.
One of the medics spoke to the crowd.
"Stand out of our way. please. We've a tight
schedule to maintain." They pushed past
him, and Phil stood staring after them, good-
natured face blank, mouth hanging slightly
open. It wasn't until one of his neighbors
nudged him and said, "Better get along.
Phil," that he came out of his daze and
trotted along after the parade heading to-
ward his cottage.
(It was a parade that diminished rapidly.
as more and more ol its components de-
cided they could see more on their holos
than by trying to crane over their neigh-
M-day plus twenty minutes.
The security chief raised her hand to ac-
tivate the cottage's announcer, but Janica
opened her door, making it obvious that
she had been watching the whole thing on
her holo. The chief checked Janica's I.D,
and compared her retina prints and pore
patterns with the I.D. and— just to be sure—
with central records. "Who else is pres-
ent?" she asked Janica.
"No one at the moment," Janica frowned.
"But I do hope HI be allowed to invite some
of my very special friends later . . ."
"Naturally," the secoff nodded. "Within
limits, as you've been told. And of course,
if they're already here, within the village.
We sealed your village as soon as — "
"My termhus, Phil," Janica gestured
casually to indicate the red-faced man el-
bowing his way through the crowd, which
was being kept well back from her door.
To his outrage, he was checked out again,
before being allowed into his very own cot-
tage. Then the secoff nodded and ges-
tured the medics with their carrier inside
and firmly shut the door.
(Only three of the medics actually went
inside; the others either waited patiently in
the grassy open space, the targets of nu-
merous staring eyes, or moved off to other
duties. Many of the watchers left, too. Star-
ing at a closed door seemed rather futile,
especially when the holos would be show-
ing the scene inside, live.)
Inside, the secoff was performing intro-
ductions. "Citizen Janica Petain-Suharto,
Citizen Phil Jones-Vishinsky, may I present
Citizen Medic Herve Ling-Hart and his
staff." She glanced at her wrist, her throat
worked, and a subvocal message went out.
(The team has your shelter set up, Herve.
if the second and third shifts want to go
"Congratulations to the both ol you," the
medic beamed, stepping forward and
shaking hands vigorously. "If you'd care to
see my credentials . . ."
"No, no, Doc.'' Phil grinned heartily.
"Good enough for the lieut here, good
enough for this citizen, right, Lieut?"
"You'll want to know the day's schedule,
of course," the doctor nodded.
"Schedule?" Phil was puzzled. He
flopped downward, and an extrude slid out
from the wall and caught him in a sitting
position with neat precision. "I thought we
had out choice. I thought—"
"Yes and no," the doctor frowned. His
own throat worked silently. (Weren't these
citizens briefed, Shirza?) In his ears, a tiny
raspberry ot disgust echoed. "Yes, there
is a schedule, and I'm atraid we must insist
it be adhered to. However, there is a cer-
tain flexibility; within that and considering
the subject's physical limitations — '"
"Limitations?" Phil interrupted. "I thought
nothing but perfect was allowed."
"Oh, PM," Janica was disgusted. "Have
you forgotten? They're smaller."
"Oh." Phil's face cleared,
"If you weren't so boringly handsome."
"The schedule," the medic hid his dis-
gust better than Janica. "begins with
awakening at aught six hundred precisely.
Medichecks will take approximately ten
minutes. Afterward, you two, and as many
as four of your friends, can have breakfast
with the subject — "
"Yeah, we know," Phil was nodding. He
loved to hand out favors. "You should see
what me an' Janny— " (Janica winced; she
had told himandto/dhim)"- -have whipped
up for breakfast. He's gonna love—"
"I'm afraid," the medic was very firm,
"that the subject will be limited to the food
we brought with us. However, you may eat
whatever you have chosen."
Phil frowned and reached out a hand
with fingers properly positioned; a servo
flashed out of the wall and inserted a lighted
smokestick in them, "I can't even give him
"Not permitted. I'm very sorry."
(Shirza, damn it, what kind of briefing — )
(They were briefed, Herve. Not our fault
it didn't stick.)
"That seems pretty unfair," Phil mut-
tered. "I mean, how can I enjoy my treats.
if all he gets is — I don't know, soyameal.
or whatever you've picked. I mean, it's my
day. How come/can't pickthe baby's meals 7 "
"You can pick your own meals, Citizen
Jones-Vishinsky. but for medical reasons
we must see that the subject's diet is care-
"Ya. Thought you said he was A-okay."
"He is, he is. But he could get very sick
if everyone just stuffed him with goodies
all the time. You do see that, don't you? So
we had to make a rule: diet administered
by medics only. If we made an exception
for you. well, we couldn't refuse anybody
else, either. One treat might not hurt, but
treats every day by all sorts of people . . ."
"Oh, Phil," Janica said, "don't be such
a bore. He's right; rules are rules. That's
the way it always is." (From her vast ex-
perience of once before.)
"Oh." He looked unappeased. He tou-
sled his thick robin's-egg-blue mane and
continued to look sulky; then he thought of
another grievance. "You say— hasn't he got
a name, anyway? You say he won't wake
until oh six hundred?"
Herve directed a burning look of re-
proach at Shirza.
"His name is Johann Meadows-Singh.
And he will be awakened ai aught six
"How come not until then? How come
not the whole day 9 It's my day, isn't it?"
"Oh, Phil!" Janica exclaimed. "He has
to sleep just like anybody else, doesn't he?
We won't lose any more time than anybody
"Boredom! Why can't he do like any-
body else who wants to put off sleeping
for a day or two? Let him have some no-
sleep like I use."
"But he'd have to make it up later, dear,
just like you do." She moved almost im-
perceptibly on the lounge she was curled
up on. and Herve automatically licked his
suddenly dry lips. "So it wouldn't be fair,
dear heart, to make somebody else have
less, just so we could have more." She
stretched- and Herve licked his lips
again — to walk her fingers up Phil's flung-
"Don't be a bore, darling. We'll take the
no-sleep and amuse ourselves , ." Her
fingers tickled behind his ear.
"Boredom." Phil muttered again. "Can't
even see him, for six more whole hours,
my very own — "
Herve cleared his throat. 'As for that, if
you just want to see the subject . . ."
Phil's frown disappeared. "Yeah, hey, now
that's real blue of you, Doc. After all. we
waited all these weeks . . ."
The medic made some quick adjust-
ments, and the opaque sides and top of
the carrier slowly brightened and cleared,
until its inside was fully revealed. The sub-
ject, naked except for a simple loincloth.
was lying on a soft white surface and was
attached to various pieces of equipment.
Janica drew back, instinctively covering
her gaping mouth with a trembling hand.
Phil spoke first. "What — what's the mat-
ter with him?"
"Matter?" The doctor's professional pride
was hurt. "Nothing's the matter with him,
nothing at all. He's a beautiful 'malgam. A
(Herve. you idiot! They were expecting
"This is our very newest 'malgam for this
sector. He was decanted less than six
months ago. We've accelerated his growth
somewhat, but — "
"Why hasn't he got any hair. And why's
his head so big? And why's he so small?
"I assure you, that's all normal at this
stage of his development. His hair and the
rest of his teeth will come later. But our
surrogates beg for subjects at this devel-
opment level. Babies they used to be called.
You can stretch out your hands and he'll
stagger toward you on uncertain legs—"
"He can't waikl"
"Oh, Phil, do you think you were de-
canted knowing how to walk?"
"How should I know! You sure he can't
walk 9 "
"Just a little, as I said. Most surrogate
parents love teaching children to walk."
"But — but- -I was going to take him to
the park, see. the kid and his old man, and —
and— you know — pitch a few balls around.
and maybe take him fishing. We've got a
beautiful pond right here in the village. Even,
if we had time, the old swimming hole. You
know, simple, old-fashioned things, like in
the good old days . . ."
The doctor shook his head. "No, the park
sounds fine — "
(Checked out, Shirza?)
(Need you ask, Herve!)
" — but you won't be able to fish or swim
or play ball. But you can play with your
subject on the grass, have a picnic, show
him around. The subject likes sweet-smell-
ing things, bright colors . . ."
"The pond, then Doctor," Janica sug-
gested. "We have some lovely ornamen-
tals in it— Vegan, I think."
"Vegan? Is the pond seal-topped?"
"Why, I — I don't know. I never stuck my
hand in. Just looked."
(It's sealed. Herve.)
(Good. Might've known you wouldn't miss
anything as obvious as that. I'd've hated
to tell them no, after the way I built it up,
but-- contamination . . .)
M-day, 0930. The village park was of
about average size, with grassy walks,
bursts of color. Works of art here and there,
from old-fashioned solid staiues (made of
modern synthetics, though) to the newest
sight/taste/sound synergies. (Several of
Janica's light-sculpts were prominently
displayed.) The pond, with its fluorescent
Vegan gauzes. Nooks with seating, nooks
without. Shade trees. A couple of rezball
courts. The usual.
The baby was chasing a butterfly.
Most of the village inhabitants who had
not been personally invited to join the party
were out in the park, too, but maintaining
a polite distance. Most were content sim-
ply to watch, with far-lenses, but many were
making holo records, despite the fact that
the professional holo-porters were hover-
ing overhead, taking everything down.
Janica was preening. She was taking
advantage of the attention and the 'porters
by running through a whole series of her
warm-up routines. When that palled, she
took off her brightly colored halter top and
dragged it by one tie enticingly near the
baby. With a crow of triumph, the baby
staggered toward the brilliant fluttering
cloth. Laughing, Janica backed up, keep-
ing the fascination just out of the reach of
the chubby fingers.
This gave Phil an idea. "You know," he
said to the doctor, "if I had a ball and just
sort of rolled it toward him .
With a wink, the doctor produced a
shimmering ball, and Phil, grinning broadly.
rolled it gently along the grass toward the
The child abandoned the top for the ball.
and Janica pouted.
A stranger shyly approached her. Her
smile at him was warmer than usual.
"Look," his voice was soft, almost a
whisper, his face beet-red under a too-thin
amber paint job. "You don't know me, but
I'm visiting a friend in this village today — "
(Strictly illegal, but winked at by the se-
curity officers, if not overly abused, After
all, if someone said, "this is my new term-
hus— or termwife — probationary, we
haven't gotten around to registering it yet,"
most secoffs would smile and pass on. after
thoroughly checking the newcomer out, of
course.) "My name's Ali Pavlov-Lee, and I
really hate to ask, but could I take a few
holos of the kid? I mean, who knows when
I'll get another chance, and—"
He really was very good-looking, and
Janica's voice deepened. "You didn't need
to ask. Plenty of the others are taking ho-
los. Just because you aren't a member of
this village — he may be ours today, but he's
everybody's baby, all the time. You have
the same rights as anybody else." A slow
smile grew over her face. "But it was sweet
of you to ask to make sure it was all right."
"Oh." Impossibly, his blush deepened
even more. "I know that. Only, see, my tele-
holo's broken. I'd have to come close, to
be close, to get any good shots."
She pinched his cheek lightly. "Of course,
sweetie. Take as many as you want." A sly
sidewise glance. "You can return the favor
"Thanks. I— you know, he's the first I've
seen, for real, I mean, up close. I — I really
appreciate this, I do. I won't forget you —
"I hope not," she purred. Then, more
loudly. "Phil, darling, how about letting Ali
here get a few close-ups?"
"Sure thing." hie didn't know the guy, but
if he was a friend of Jannys . . .
Ali took several shots from various an-
gles, and soon everyone was showing off
for him, laughing, catching the ball and
throwing it, playing to make the baby laugh
(Sylvie was amazingly successful with
nothing but sticking her tongue out and
crossing her eyes), all under the eyes of
their friends, the holos, the professional
Ali made his move with startling sud-
denness. He tossed his camera at Phil, who
was closesl to the baby. As Phil automat-
ically caught the flying object with both
hands, Ali swooped down and scooped
up the child and was off and running,
"Stop, you fool," Shirza shouted and be-
gan chasing after him, afraid to use her
weapons because of the child. "There's no
place you can go — "
In seconds a mob was forming in pur-
suit, but Ali had picked his direction
shrewdly. There were no cottages be-
tween him and open country, and no peo-
Except Sylvie. who had wandered away
to pick a spectacularly luscious tiger-striped
trumpetbloom for the baby. Sylvie heard
the screams, straightened up, and saw the
man clasping the baby and heading al-
most directly toward her.
Ali saw the woman rise up out of her little
depression, out of nowhere it seemed to
him, and he swerved frantically.
She screamed and began running to-
ward him, waving the flower like a banner.
"Watch out for the baby!" Herve roared.
Sylvie could never have stopped him,
not without hurting the baby. But his frantic
swerve to avoid her gave Janica her
chance. Legs flashing, she charged up
behind him. An impossible leap, and she
was sailing over his head, every light-
sculpting-trained muscle acting with per-
fect precision. As she soared, she flipped,
too, and her hands darted out. And when
she landed, lightly, on her feet, just as Syl-
vie crashed head on into Ali. the baby was
safely nestled in her arms.
And it was all over.
Firm hands pulled Sylvie to her feel, and
she embraced her friend, and just for a
second she felt in her own arms a soft,
dirty, crying, smelly baby.
Ali lay where he'd fallen, crying, sur-
rounded by grim secoffs. "She only wanted
a baby of her own," he sobbed. "A day. we
only had a day. It wasn't enough. She
wanted a baby of her own. She said she'd
leave me if I didn't get her a baby of her
own, her own. a baby of her own . .
(Herve and Shirza exchanged glances
over his oblivious head. Two for the treat-
ment center . . .)
Then Herve took the baby, and Sylvie's
arms felt strangely empty.
The rest of M-day was sadly anticlimac-
tic, after the attempted baby stealing, and
the whole affair served as a subject for
conversation and holos. professional and
amateur. Such a heroine Janica wasl And
have you seen her latest sculpture? And
when newer sensations made memories
fade, holos got shoved to the back of stor-
age and were forgotten.
Only Sylvie could not forget the pow-
dery-soft skin against her lips, the sweet-
sour baby scent, the odd feeling that had
welled up within her when she held the baby
within the circle of her arms.
Sometimes, during rest periods, with her
termhus snoring exhaustedly and satiat-
edly beside her, she would think about it,
but her thoughts always went round and
round in the same circle.
Babies were only decanted at the POP
centers, to replace the rare accidental
deaths, computer-directed recombinant
amalgams to replace lost genes and tal-
ents. There was no way she could ever
produce a baby herself, no way she could
have a baby of her own. No way . . .
And sooner or later she'd nudge Ray un-
til he roused enough to offer her the only
anodyne he could. But all too often, after-
wards, he'd slide back into contented
slumber, while she lay, unable even to dis-
tract herself with soloholo lenses, because
her thoughts persisted no matter what
amusements the soloholo presented
No way — only decanted at POP cen-
ters — no way— no way . .
A : Sf?J
it was the ultimate
gamble. The stakes? His life
Everything seems to be
in order. Mr. Welling-
ton. You may now re-
serve Ihe Body Ball at your
"Very good. I'd like it on the
seventeenth, at eleven."
"It's available Ihen. sir. If you
care to read through the con-
tract, and sign it, we can
proceed for that night."
"That's not necessary. As
long as the major points are
the way we agreed, I'll sign."
"They're as agreed, sir If
you win at Body Ball, you
colleci one million. If you lose.
all your financial assets go to
the syndicate, and . . ."
"Nevermind. I know the
second part of it very well."
"Of course, sir."
"That s the only thing that
concerns me, frankly— the
disposal of the body."
"There is absolutely nothing
to worry about on thai score,
sir. It Will be disposed of per
our agreement. We stand on
our record, and I'm sure you
are aware that we have been
in business long enough to
have an excellent one."
Wellington nodded. "Well
aware. I'll sign."
At precisely eleven o'clock
on the evening of the seven-
teenth, Wescott Wellington
pulled his Mercedes to the
curb in front of one of a
number of undistinguished
row houses and turned it over
to an attendant who had been
waiting there. As the man
drove the car off, Wellington
rang a doorbell at the house.
The door opened up
automatically, and he was
ushered inside by a voice
coming from a wall speaker.
"Good evening. Mr. Welling-
ton. Welcome to Body Ball.
You may hang your coat on
the rack to your right, sir, and
then enter the room directly
in front of you."
Wellington was surprised as
he walked into the room, The
Body Ball machine was
gigantic. He'd known it would
be large, of course, but had
not imagined it as stretching
nearly wall to wall and being
ten to twelve meters wide.
They must have torn down
almost all the walls in the
house to make the room large
enough for it. On the other
hand, aside from its size,
nothing about it was ditferent
from the hundreds of pinball
machines he'd seen for
almost as long as he could
remember— noihing different
on the outside, that is; the
inside, of course, the part
immediately below the playing
surface, was far different-
deep enough to hold a body.
The giant pinball machine
was the only thing in the room
except for a chair in front of it
and a few steps that led up fo
its lower end. As for the room.
around the upper meter or
so ran a strip of mirrored,
one-way glass, behind which,
he'd been told, there would be
spectators, both official for
verification and some simply
there to enjoy the show
He eased himself into the
chair slowly. His age and his
paunch would be against him
when he played the machine,
of course, but otherwise he
was a healthy man. Deeply
tanned, impeccably dressed,
gray hair darkened, fingers
manicured, and already
PAINTING BY GERARD DI-MACCIO
feeling an anticipation, a thrill that he had
thought he had lost forever, he smiled when
an attendant approached.
"Way I be of service, Mr. Wellington?
Something lo drink?"
"No, thank you. The Body Ball is ready
tor my use?"
"Yes, sir May I help you with it?"
"If you will."
Wellington got up and slowly walked to
the giant pinbali machine and climbed the
steps down at its lower end. On the top
slep he bent and went through a small
doorway into the machine as the attendant
hurried up the stairs behind him.
Inside, still in a crouched position be-
cause of the glass above him. a pane that
extended over the playing area, he edged
onto a bucket seat that was attached !o a
wheeled scooter. The back of the seat rose
to head level and was resting against the
machine's giant plunger.
"Now, sir, it you will permit me — '
The attendant, crouched beside him now.
buckled and locked the seat belt carefully,
and then did the same to belts at his ankles
and wrists so that, besides being made
safe against being thrown from the scooter,
he was unable to guide it by using his limbs
outside it, although he was allowed to use
all the body English he was able to muster.
"There you are. sir. All ready to go."
"As soon as I get out and close the door.
just call when you're ready and I'll send
you on your way."
"Right, It will be a moment. I want to re-
lax some first."
"Of course, sir. If I can be of more ser-
vice, just give me a call. I'm here to help."
As the attendant left. Wellington mused
with a taint smile that it was only proper
that he should be offered "service" at this
time, the pinnacle of his career. God knows,
he'd earned it. All ot it. Service came with
the good life, the rich life. The gambling
life. Millions won; millions spent. He'd had
it all. He'd been everywhere, done every-
thing, bought everything And all because
of dice, cards, horses, the wheel, you name
it. He'd always been a winner. Always. And
he didn't have the slightest idea why. He
had no system, no nothing. It was uncanny.
He'd been barred from many a place
through the years because of his continual
winning; he'd had to disguise himself, use
a phony name.
He'd resented having to do that at first—
the subterfuge — but gradually he had
learned lo look forward to it. Because when
you won almost consistently, gambling be-
came — there was no other word for it -
just plain boring. To him. anyway, and get-
ting into the places he'd been barred from
was a challenge and knocked the bore-
dom for a while. Boredom, in fact, was his
grealesl problem now. and he might even
have gone into some other line of work ex-
cept for the style of living he'd become
accustomed to. and. boring or not, gam-
bling was his life.
When he heard ot Body Ball, he was at-
tracted immediately, thinking it impossible
to be bored by the game since he could
never be certain that he was going to win —
in the long run that is. One loss when play-
ing Body Ball was the final one; there was
absolutely no chance to recoup, to win.
He'd be dead
He knew the backers— casino people.
They were reliable. He applied to play and,
as he expected, was quickly accepted not
only because they thought he had enough
money to make it worth their while if he
should lose but, far more important, be-
cause he was a winner and because ca-
sino owners wanted to get rid of winners—
legally. Thai was why they had invented
the game, he suspected, with its extreme
penalty for losing.
But why would winners play Body Ball in
the face of such a penalty'' Well he didn't
know what motivated the rest of them, but
he knew about himself. He was here for the
ultimate thrill, the greatest challenge, with
absolutely no possibility of boredom. One
loss ended it; if he lost, he lost his life.
He had "practiced" a joke. He hadn't
even liked pinbali when he was a kid: it was
a game played by addicted robots-
numbskulls, in his opinion, And, of course,
there had been no money in it. But during
the last few days he had wearily played
dozens of times, always winning, of course.
Even so, he suspected that the correlation
between playing ordinary pinbali ma-
chines and playing Body Ball was infini-
tesimally slight, if existent at all.
Now he would find out for sure.
Taking a deep breath, he called out to
the attendant that he was ready to start.
"Very good, sir."
He felt the scooter move as the plunger
behind him was drawn back by a powered
device. Slowly he rolled backward until the
plunger was released abruptly and he was
shot up an inclined corridor at stomach-
Ahead of him. rising vertically at the
higher end of the machine, a blinding array
of colored lights began to flash spasmod-
ically on a huge board; in the board's up-
per center brilliant green lights spelled out
body ball, and under the lights was a clock.
Activated by the plunger's release, the
clock's second hand was already moving.
If he stayed on the playing area four min-
utes — one minute for each letter in body—
the exit slot at the lower end of the machine
would automatically be closed at the end
of that period of time by a device triggered
by the ticking clock, and he would win his
If. on the other hand, he tailed to stay on
the playing area four minutes and dropped
through the open slot, a device, triggered
by his falling body promptly slid the metal
covering over the slot and him. With the
covering closed, and with the rest of the
lower part of the machine equally sealed —
the part, that is. into which he had (alien —
cyanide pellets were dropped into acid,
releasing killing gas.
His speed gradually lessened as he ap-
proached the top of the playing area. Even
so. the speed was great enough to jolt him
harshly when the scooter hit a padded ob-
stacle shortly after he rounded the top. The
scooter, which had an inflated tirelike rim.
bounced back with a jerk to the top of the
playing area, and from here he would be-
gin his all-too-speedy descent toward the
exit slot at the bottom.
Just below him now were two raised,
parallel corridors. Hurtling backward, he
went through one of them, bouncing oft its
sides and triggering a barrage of blinding
lights and a deafening cacophony of bells
and buzzers on the vertical board and
playing area (something, he was to learn.
thai happened every time he struck any-
thing). Coming out of the corridor at a slight
angle, he crashed into a giant mushroom-
shaped protrusion that, with its springy
edge, spun him oft to another mushroom
and he smashed against a rectangle-
shaped padded obstacle near the left side
of the playing area. From here he dropped
alarmingly until he crashed into a flipper
about halfway down the machine. The flip-
per, activated on contact, shot him to the
far side of the machine, toward the top,
where he crashed into another mushroom,
which smashed him into the bottom of one
of the raised corridors,
From here he rolled straight down the
center of the machine toward the exit slot,
skimming past two mushrooms and not
even getting close to a flipper, even though
he savagely yanked at the arms of the
scooter with Ins belted wrists. He zipped
past Iwo padded obstacles, another
mushroom, and another flipper, gaining
speed all the time. Ahead were Iwo more
raised parallel corridors directly in front of
ihe slot; below the corridors he saw there
were only two flippers that could slop him
from going through the hole.
With desperate yanks of his wrists and
body against the belts, he was able to jerk
the scooter to the left enough to smash
against the top of one of the corridors, which
sent him back up the machine about three
meters. Right backdown toward one of the
corridors he sped, though, zipping through
it cleanly and setting off an even more hor-
rendous barrage of lights and noise, But
again, using savage jerks, he was able to
hit the last flipper before the exit slot; it
slammed him to the far side of the ma-
chine, where he hit another triangle-shaped
padded obstacle with such force that he
thought his head would be thrown from his
body. Rolling backward, he crashed vi-
ciously into another mushroom. This one
shot him against another tire-rimmed ob-
stacle. Then he bounced off it and landed
against another flipper, which smashed him
against the side of the rubber-rimmed ma-
chine with such force this time that his head
crashed into the back of the scooter, stun-
ning him. Groggy, he hit a rubberized, fin-
And then he was speeding down again.
A flipper jolt, and he was moving cross-
ways, and then up once more. He was spun
backward and came up heavily against a
mushroom. Then he caromed off into an-
other. Lights exploding before his eyes.
Noise hammering him. Body spinning,
jerked. Thuds. Crashes. Belts into gut.
wrists, ankles. Up. Down. Across. Down.
Up. Across. Up . . .
He was near the top of the machine when
the covering slowly slid over the exit slot.
He had won — again.
He felt the old boredom within days after
he collected his million. And it wasn't long
before it was unbearable again; worse, be-
cause now. having won the ultimate gam-
ble, what was left? It was impossible for
him to really win. it seemed win freedom
from boredom. Quit? Quit gambling? That
thought itself was depressing enough to
lead, finally, to thoughts of suicide. Gam-
bling was his life.
Was dealh belter than boredom? He was
beginning to think so,
As he was getting ready for bed one
night, he gloomily came to the conclusion
that it was. and he decided to play Body
Ball again . . . and again . . and again . . .
until he must lose.
It seemed that he had no sooner got to
sleep, though, than he woke up with a start,
his boredom gone and his whole body tin-
gling with life.
He'd bet the Body Ball owners — with
suitable odds, of course — that the cyanide
pellets wouldn't drop into the pail of acid.
How could he lose?
The theme of "Body Ball" — a life-and-death
spectator sport of the future — is not new.
By placing it in a huge pinball machine,
however, and positing a protagonist who
is so bored with good fortune that he is
willing to wager his life against impossible
odds, John Keefauver adds piquancy to
the plot. The Story is the third by Keefauver
to be anthologized in this series, His fiction
and satiric humor have been widely pub-
lished, and some of his works have been
anthologized in Random House's Hitch-
cock collections. Keefauver categorizes his
writing as fantasy rather than science fic-
tion. After a long career as a newspaper
reporter, he now resides in California.
Edna chose to awake
this morning io good
old breakfast loop A.
John was reading a
newspaper over pancakes
and sausages in the
kitchen of their old home.
The kids were gulping the
last of their food and were
anxious to be on their way
After yesterday's real-
time-shared breakfasl with
John, she really felt she
needed the soothing old
familiar tape from her files
today. It rrtighl have been
shot way back during the
1987- 88 television season
on a crude home deck, it
might be snowy and shaky,
bu! Edna still ran it three or
four mornings a week in
preference to !he breakfast
soaps or more updated
Somehow it captured what
prime breakfast time with
John and the kids had
really been like, and
somehow that made it
her prime breakfast
Edna; Now. Sammy, you
finish the rest of your milk
before you run outdoors!
BY NORMAN SPINRAD
They could live
any fantasy; the trouble
was the reality
DONALD ROLLER WILSON
Sammy: (slugging down the rest of his milk)
Aw. Ma, I'm gonna be late!
Edna- Nol if you don't take your usual
shortcut past the candy store.
Of course the old tape hadn't been sho!
from her stereo perspective, and there was
something strange about seeing yourself
in your own domeslic programming, and it
certainly wasn't as well written as a break-
fast soap, but then none of the soaps were
personalized and none of her other do-
mestic tapes with John had footage of the
kids at grade-school age.
John was always after her to share real-
time programming with him. He'd voice her
over on the communication channel and
show her tapes he had made for himself
with her in them, or he'd entice her with
shared domestic lapes. or he'd bombard
her with pom-channel footage
But the domestic tapes he programmed
for them to share all took place in exotic
locales, and the story lines were strictly
male-type fantasies— John's idea ol suit-
able real-time programming for the two of
them to share ran to camel caravans across
the desert, spaceship journeys to strange
planets full of weird creatures, sailing the
South Seas, discovering lost cities, fight-
ing m noble wars. And her viewpoint role
was usually a cross between Wonder
Woman and Slave Girl. Well, that mighl be
how John wished to real-time-share with
tier, but Edna preferred her soaps and ro-
mantic historicals. which John categori-
cally refused to real-time-share with her
under any circumstances
As for the porn channels that he wanted
to real-lime-share with her. the only word
Still, he was her husband, and she felt
she had lo fulfill her conjugal obligations
from time to time; so five or ten times a
season she gritted her teeth and real-time-
shared one of his crude male porn chan-
nels in Ihe sex-object role. Less frequently
he consented to time-share a historical X
with her. but only because of the implied
threat she'd withhold her porn-channel la-
vors from him if he didn't
So by and large it was mealtime pro-
gram sharing that was their least distaste-
ful channel of contact and the one that saw
most frequent use,
John: (wiping his lips with his napkin) Well ,
honey, it's off to the salt mines Ready to
Ellie: I got to make wee-wee first.
TOTAL TELEVISION HEAVEN 60-SEC-
OND SPOT #12 FINALIZED BROADCAST
VERSION HARD CUT FROM BACK
A series of low, pink buildings, empha-
sizing sunrise through the palm trees.
Announcer's voice-over: (medium hard sell}
Total Television Heaven, the ultimate retire-
ment community for fortunate Electronic
A rapidly cut montage Irom the adven-
ture channels, the pom channels, the soaps,
etc Make it the most colorful and exciting
footage we've got and emphasize expen-
sive crowd scenes and special effects.
Announcer's voice-over: (orgasmic) Twenty
full channels of pornography, thirty-five full
channels of adventure, forty channels of
continuing soaps— live lull-lime, in over a
hundred possible realities produced by
the finest talents in Hollywood . . .
CLOSE-UP ON A MAN S HEAD
Intelligent, with neat, dignified, gray hair.
As hands fit stereo TV goggles over his
eyes. (Earphones already in place )
Announcer's voice-over (institutional) You
live as the viewpoint character in a won-
derland of sex and adventure through the
electronic magic of total stereo TV!
MEDIUM SHOT ON A FAMOUS OLD AC-
Cast someone wilh recognition value
who's willing to sign up tor a two-hundred-
Famous Old Actor: And that's not all! Tape
your family! Tape your Iriends! Take your
loved ones with you to Total Television
Heaven and keep them with you torever!
Act now . . . before it's too late.
CAMERA PULLS BACK FOR A FULL SHOT
We see that the Famous Old Actor is
being helped into a glass amnion tank. He
keeps talking and smiling as the attend-
ants strap him to the couch, tit the ear-
phones and stereo TV goggles, hook up
his breathing mask and waste lube, and
begin filling the lank with fluid.
Famous Old Actor: A vast lape library.
Custom-cut programs to your order! I wish
I'd signed up years ago!
The throat mike is attached, his hand is
taped to the tuner knob, the nutrient tube
is inserted in his arm (no on-camera needle
penetration, please), the amnion tank is
topped off and sealed. The camera moves
in for a close-up on the tace of the Famous
Old Actor, seen floating blissfully in his
Famous Old Actor: (filtered) I'm never
coming out — and I'm glad!
DISSOLVE TO: SUNSET OVER TOTAL
The sun sinks into the sea in speeded-
up time over the pink pastel client-storage
buildings, and a glorious, star-filled sky
comes on like an electronic billboard.
Announcers voice-over (transcendent) No
man knows God's inlenl for the hereafter
bul at Total Television Heaven modern bi-
ological science guarantees you a full two
hundred years of electronic paradise in Ihe
sa f ety and comfort of your own private tank.
And a full annuity cosls less than you think!
John: Maybe we can make it oul to the lake
Edna: Supposed to be clear, in the sev-
enlies, I heard on the weather . , .
This season John had been acting
stranger and stranger, even during their
mealtime sharing His conversation was
becoming more and more loulmouthed and
even incoherent. He had taken to appear-
ing in elaborate character roles even over
breakfast, and yesterday's real-time-shared
breakfast had been just about more than
Edna could take.
He'd voiced her over the night before
and invited her to breakfast the nexl morn-
ing in Hawaii, where they had real-time-
shared their honeymoon in the dim, distant
pasl- so many seasons ago that no re-
cording tape of il existed: none had been
made way back then, before anyone had
even dreamed of retiring lo Total Television
Heaven. It had been a very long time in-
deed since John had invited her to real-
time-share their pasl at all, even in a re-
constructed version, and so when he told
her he had custom-programmed breakfast
on the beach m Hawaii, Edna had been so
thrilled that she agreed to time-share his
breakfast program against what had lately
been becoming her better judgment.
The program wakened her to sunrise on
the beach, the great golden ball rising out
of the dark sea in speeded-up stop-motion
animation like a curtain going up. illumi-
nating the bright blue sky that suddenly
flared into existence as she found herself
lying on the sand beneath it.
This to the theme of an ancient prime-
time show called Hawaii Five-0, as a
majestic breaker railed and broke, rolled
and broke, again and again, in a closed
loop beyond the shoreline foam.
John appeared in the role of a tanned,
blond, muscled Adonis wearing a ludi-
crously short grass skirt A breakfast table
was set up at the edge of the sea itself, in
the foot-high wash of foam kicked up by
the eternal rolling wave that towered and
broke, towered and broke, above them.
Naked, godlike Polynesians— a youth for
her. a maiden for John — helped them to
their teet and escorted them to the wicker
peacock chairs on either side of the strange
table. The table was a block of polished
obsidian on Victorian-looking brass legs;
there was a depression in the center, out
of which a grooved channel ran to the sea-
side edge of the tabletop.
This was certainly not their Hawaiian
honeymoon as Edna recollected it, and she
didn't need a tape to be sure of that!
"Welcome. love goddess of Ihe north,
to my groovy pad." John crooned m a
strange, cracked voice. He clapped his
hands. "An oblation in thine honor,"
The naked maiden produced a squeal-
ing piglet, which she pressed into the pit
in the center of the table. The naked youth
handed John a huge machete. "Hai!" John
screamed, hacking the piglet in half with a
swipe ol his blade. Blood pooled in the pit
in the table, then ran down Ihe groove to
the edge and dripped off into Ihe sea As
the tirst drops of blood touched the ocean,
the water abruptly changed color, and a
towering wave of blood arched over them.
A few moments later, when the eternal
wave was blue water again and Edna's
viewpoint angle returned to a shot on the
table, the gory mess had been replaced
by a white tablecloth, two plates of ham
and eggs, a pot of coffee, and a bottle of
dark island rum,
"Oh, John." she said disgustedly, "it's all
"Eldritch' 7 Excessive? Demented?" John
said petulantly, crotchety annoyance
crackmg his handsome, twenty-year-old
features. "You're such a timid bird. Edna.
No sense of fun. No imagination."
"Killing things is not my idea of either tun
or imagination," Edna retorted indignantly.
John laughed a weird, nervous laugh. A
whale breached not far offshore, and im-
mediately a giant squid wrapped tentacles
around it. A fight to the death began "Kill-
ing things?'" John said. "But there's noth-
ing alive here to kill! This is Heaven, not
Earth, and we can do anything without
consequences. What else can we do?"
"We can have a normal, civilized break-
fast like decent human beings "
"Normal, civilized breakfast 1 John
shouted "Decent human beings!' A vol-
cano erupted somewhere inland Terrified
natives fled before a wall of fiery lava, "Who
cares aboul being decent human beings
when we're not even alive, my princess?"
"I haven't the faintest idea what you're
talking about," Edna said primly. But of
course some small part of her did
"Sure and begorra. you do, Edna!" John
said mockingly "Avast, matey, what makes
you so sure we're still alive? For lo. how
many television seasons has it been since
we retired? A hundred? Two hundred? Ver-
ily and forsooth, time out of mind. Can you
even guess, my slave girl? I can't."
Edna blanched. She didn't like this kind
of talk at all. It was worse than his machis-
mo adventure programs, worse than the
porno programming he enjoyed pulling her
through, worse on a whole other level she
had trained herself not to contemplate
"Of course we're alive." she said. "We're
real-time-sharing now, aren't we?"
Bathing beauties water-skied in a cho-
rus line through the curl ol the wave. A
flying saucer buzzed the beach. A giant
crab seized their servants in its pincers It
whisked them away as they screamed
'Ah, mine Aphrodite, how can we be sure
of that? Thou couldst be croaked and I
could be tuning in to an old tape where
you still lived. Har-har I could be dead ex-
cept in this program of yours."
"This is certainly no program of mine.
John Rogers!" Edna shouted "Only you
could have invited me lo a breakfast pro-
gram like this!"
"I stink. Iherefore I am." John cackled.
Lightning rattled. Schools of porpoises
leaped in and out of the great wave.
And so it had gone. Nubian slaves light-
ing cigarettes, Dancing gulls. An orgy se-
quence. And all throughout it, John bab-
bling and ranting like a demented parrot
in his beachboy body. Only one thing had
kept Edna from tuning him out and tuning
in a breakfast soap, and that was the dim,
distant thought that to do so might precip-
itate ihe final break between them, the break
between her and something that she could
no longer conceplualize clearly.
John: (rising from the table! What's for din-
ner tonight, by the way?
Edna. Roast chicken with that corn bread
stuffing you like.
He kisses her briefly on Ihe lips.
John: Mmmmm . .! I'll try to pick up a bol-
tle of that German wine on the way back
from work if I'm not too late.
He opens the door, waves, and exits.
Edna: Have a good day.
But now, while she watched her image
bid good-bye to John as he left for work
on that dim. fuzzy old tape she found so
soothing. Edna wondered how long it would
be before she would consent to real-time-
share a meal with the "real" John again a
John she no longer recognized as the hus-
band in her domestic tapes, a John she
was not sure she wanted to know about.
After all. she thought, tuning to Elizabeth
the Queen her favorite historical romance
of this season, too much of that could rum
her domestic tapes with John for her. and
then where would she be if she could no
longer live comfortably in her past?
Right now she was seated on her throne
in the early evening light, and Sir Walter
Raleigh was bowing to her with a boyish
twinkle in his eye that made her quiver.
Rolling among naked teen-aged girls in
a great marbled Roman bath. Popping off
Indians with his Remington repeater.
Swinging on a vine through a jungleful of
dinosaurs. Leading the pack around Ihe
last turn at the Grand Prix de Monaco.
Boring, boring, boring! Irritably John
flipped through the broadcast channels,
unable to find anything capable of holding
his attention. What a lousy season this was.
even worse than the last! There wasn't a
single adventure program that had any
originality lo it: Ihe porno channels made
him think of Edna and her damned dis-
approval of anything still capable of turn-
ing him on; and old domestic tapes, he
knew, would just make him furious.
01 course he had a big file of classic
recordings and custom- prog rammed fa-
vorites to draw upon when real-time pro-
gramming got boring, and so he started
flipping through his videx, desperately
looking (or something to fill this time slot.
Flying his one-man space fighter low over
an. alien glass city, shattering the crystal
towers with his shock wave as he rose to
meet the bandits. Chasing a fat merchant-
man under a full head of sail: Avast, me
hearties, prepare a broadside! Auctioned
as a sex slave to a mob of horny women.
Doing a smart left bank around a sky-
scraper, with Lois Lane in his arms,
He really had some choice footage in his
tape library, but he had run all of it so often
down through the long seasons that every
bit of it seemed engraved in his real-time
memory. He had lost the ability to surprise
himself, even with how gross he could get.
and he had to go further and further out to
avert ... to avert ... to avert , . .
Onward, the Light Brigade! Thousands
of screaming teen-aged groupies mobbed
the stage, grabbed his guitar, tore off his
clothes. "Frankly, Scarlett," he said, as she
sank to her knees, "I don't give a damn."
If only Edna had the gumption to be a
real wife to him! Lord knew, he tried to be
a real husband to her. Didn't he regularly
invite her to real-time-share the porn chan-
nels with him, and didn't he take pains to
choose the most far-out sex programming
available? Didn't he invite her to all his best
adventure programs 7 Didn't he invite her
to the best mealtime custom programming
instead of the same old domestic tapes?
He did his best to make her program-
ming day interesting and surprising, and
what did he get from her in return? A lot of
whining about his dirty mind, a determi-
nation to get him caught in one of those
saccharine historical X's with her, and a
dreary desire to mealtime-share the same
musty old domestic tapes over and over
again. What was the purpose of retiring to
Total Television Heaven in the first place if
you were afraid of grossness, if you in-
sisted on realism, if all you wanted was to
watch endless reruns of the same old, bor-
Striding through the jungle, a great, hairy
gorilla beating his chest while the natives
flee in terror. Executing a snappy Immel-
mann and coming up on the Red Baron's
tail, machine guns blazing. Getting head
from the legendary Marilyn Monroe.
Damn it, retiring to Total Television Heaven
before either ol them was sixty-five had
been Edna's idea in the first place, John
told himself, though a part ot him knew that
wasn't exactly totally true. With the kids at '
the other end of the continent and the
economy in such bad shape and nothing
interesting going on in their real-time lives
it was only his job that had kept them from
trading in their Social Security equity for a
two-hundred-year annuity to Total Televi-
sion Heaven. He figured that if he could
work another ten years and save at the
same rate, it would enable them to buy an
extra fifty years of Heaven. But when the
cost of living rose to the point where he
wasn't saving anything . well, at that point
he hadn't really needed that much con-
vincing, especially since there was a ru-
mor that Social Security was about to go
bust and the smart thing to do was get into
Heaven while you could.
Bui what good was two hundred and ten
years in Total Television Heaven if your wife
insisted on living in her tape loops of the
past? How much fun could you have if all
you had to rely on was the broadcast pro-
grammers and your own imagination?
Making love to a fair rescued damsel on
the steaming corpse of a slain dragon. The
image began to flicker. Diving out of an
airplane, spreading his arms and flying like
a bird: the air seemed to turn to a thick,
choking fluid Tarzan ot the Apes, making
love to an appreciative lioness, felt an un-
comfortable pressure against his eyeballs.
Oh. God. ii was happening again! For
some time now something had been cor-
roding John Rogers. He could feel it hap-
pening. He didn't know what it was, but he
knew that he didn't want to know.
I'm /List sick and tired of having to till
every time slot in my programming day with
something I have to choose myself, he told
himself nervously. Sure, he could time-share
with Edna and let her fill some time slots
tor him. but her idea of programming made
him want to puke.
In fact, the lover of the insatiable Cath-
erine the Great felt a bubble of nausea ris-
ing within him even as the beautitul czarina
crawled all over him. Napoleon's mind felt
a nameless dread even as he led the
triumphal march through Paris. Because
the thought that had intruded unbidden into
his mind was. What would happen if he
didn't choose anything to fill the lime slot?
Was it possible? Would he still be there?
Where was there?
And questions like those brought on the
leading edge of an immense, formless,
shapeless, choking dread that took him out
ot the viewpoint character and made him
see the whole thing as if through the eyes
of a video camera: lines of dots, pressure
against his eyeballs . . .
He shuddered inwardly, Convulsively he
switched to a domestic porno tape ot him-
self and Edna making love in the grass on
the slope of a roaring volcano, She
screamed and cursed and moaned as he
stuck it to her, but ... but . . .
Edna. I've got to get out of here!
But what can I possibly mean by that?
Frantically he voiced her over. "Edna, I've
got to real-time-share with you," he said
"I'm tuned in to China Clipper now, and
it's my favorite historical X," her voice-over
whined as he continued to pound at her
under the volcano.
"Please, Edna, porn channel Eight, real-
time-share with me now, if you don't , , . if
you don't . . ."A wave of molten lava roared
and foamed down the mountain toward
them as Edna moaned and swore toward
climax beneath him,
"Not now. John, I'm enjoying my pro-
gram. ' her distant voice-over said.
"Edna! Edna! Edna!'' John shrieked,
overcome with a terror he didn't under-
stand, didn't want to understand.
"John!" There was finally concern in her
voice, and it seemed to come from the Edna
who thrashed and moaned beneath him in
orgasm as the wave of lava enfolded them
in painless fire.
'John, you're disgusting!" she said at the
height of the moment. "If you want to time-
share with me, we'll have to go to a do-
mestic tape now. Loop E."
Raging with fear, anger, and self-loath-
ing, he followed her to the domestic tape.
They were sitting on the back porch of their
summer cabin at the lake, overlooking the
swimming raft, where the kids were playing
a ragtag game of water polo. Oh. Jesus . . .
"Now what's got you all upset. John?"
Edna said primly.
John didn t know what to say. He didn't
know how to deal with it. He didn't even
wan! to know what he was dealing with. He
was talking to a ghost, He was talking to
his wife talking to a ghost. He . . he
"We've got to do more real-time-sharing.
Edna." he finally said, "It's important. We
shouldn't be alone in here all the time."
"I haven't the faintest idea what you're
babbling about," Edna said nervously. "As
for more real-time-sharing, I'm perfectly
willing to share mealtimes with you on a
regular basis if you behave yourself, Here.
At the house. On our honeymoon. Even in
a good restaurant. But not in any of your
disgusting programming, John, and that
goes double for the porn channels. I don't
understand you, John. You've become
some kind of pervert. Sometimes I think
you're going crazy."
A burst of multicolored snow flickered
the old tape. Edna sipped her lemonade.
His eyes ached. He was choking.
"Im going crazy?" John cried thickly.
"What about you, Edna, living back here
and trying to pretend we're really still alive
back then, instead of here in . . . in — "
"In Total Television Heaven, John." Edna
said sharply. "Where we're free to prog ram
all our time slots to suit ourselves. And if
you don't like my programming you don't
have to time-share it. As for your program-
ming. I don't know how you stand it."
"But I can't stand it!" John shouted as a
water-skier was drawn by a roaring speed-
boat past their porch. "That's what's driv-
ing me crazy " From somewhere came the
sounds of a softball game. A 747 glided
"Daddy! Daddy!" the kids waved at him,
"But this is worse!" he screamed at Edna,
young and trim in her two-piece bathing
suit. A neighbor's dog came up, wagging
its tail, and she gave it her hand to lick.
"This isn't real, and its not even an honest
fantasy; you're dead inside of here. Edna,
living through your old tape loops, floating
in . . . floating in . . ."
He gagged. An image of 3 fetus faded
in, faded out, faded in again. He feit some-
thing pressing against his face like an ocean
of time drowning him, pulling him under.
Nothing was real. Nothing but whatever
Edna had become speaking through her
long-dead simulacrum near the lake.
"Stop it, John! I won't listen to such filth!"
"Oh, Jesus, Edna, we're dead, don't you
see? We're dead and drifting forever in our
own tape loops, and only — "
"Good-bye, John." Edna said frostily.
taking another sip of lemonade. "I much
prefer the way you were to this!"
"Edna! Edna! Don't break the time-share!
You're all that's left!"
Edna: Say. honey, why don't we go inside
and make a little love in the afternoon.
A thunderclap rends the sky. It begins
to rain. Edna laughs and undoes the halter
of her swimsuit.
Edna: Oh. I'm getting wet. Why don't you
grab a towel and dry me off,
"Oh, no, no!" John shouted as his view-
point followed her. For she was no longer
there, and he remembered every scene
every angle, every special effect of this
program. Something inside him snapped.
He had to get out of here. He switched his
videx to rapid random scan, unable to think
of choosing a program to fill his time slot.
Getting head from Marilyn Monroe sail-
ing the Spanish Main — fetus floating in the
eternal amnion — a giant gorilla chasing
dusky natives from dinner with Edna and
the kids in the dining room of their house —
a million flickering electronic dots against
his eyeballs — flying like a bird through the
towers of New York around the Eiffel
Tower — choking in the sea of time — lead-
ing the cavalry charge to plant the flag on
Iwo Jima— lungs straining for a surface that
wasn't there — stepping out of the air lock
under triple suns— trapped in syrupy
quicksand forever — arriving at the sultan s
harem in King Arthur's squad car —
Awake, aware, alive for a long, horribly
lucid moment — floating and choking in (he
amniotic quicksand with meaningless im-
ages attacking his eyeballs — waking up
Irom a long suffocation dream into a long
suffocation dream that wouldn't go away,
couldn't go away, or there'd be —
Dueling with the musketeers swinging on
a vine through the jungle of the Great Bar-
rier Reef with Edna in a hammock scream-
ing orgasm in the harem with a dozen houris
soaring through space screaming around
great ringed Saturn screaming against the
dead cold black phosphor-dotted ever-
lasting void drowning choking screaming
god oh god oh oh oh — ■
As she faded out of the viewpoint char-
acter of Elizabeth the Queen, Edna thought
of John. How long ago had that terrible
tmal real-time sharing taken place'' Was it
still the same television season?
It was time for dinner, and she pro-
grammed dinner loop C. She. John, and
the kids were seated at Thanksgiving din-
ner. She was wearing her Sunday best, the
kids were neat and combed, and John was
wearing a suit.
John: This stuffing is delicious, honey!
Sammy: Can I have the other drumstick?
Elite: Pass the cranberry sauce.
Edna: It's wonderful to have a quiet
Thanksgiving dinner just for the four of us,
isn't it, John?
Edna felt so contented, so at peace with
herself and her family, so right with the world.
/ really should invite John to real-time-share
this wonderlul Thanksgiving, she thought
maternally / rea//y ought to give him one
last chance to be a proper father to the
kids and husband to me.
Filled wilh Christian charity, she voiced
over to his channel. 'John?" she said,
scooping up mashed yams with brown
sugar and passing the salt to her beaming
husband, who planted a little kiss on her
wedding ring en passant. "I'm having
Thanksgiving dinner with you and the kids,
and I'd like you to be a good father and
real-time-share with us.'
There was nothing on the voice-over
channel for a moment as John handed the
drumstick to Sammy. Then, as Sammy took
it from him and bit into it with boyish gusto.
An endless, ghastly, blubbering shriek
that rattled Edna's teeth and poisoned the
moment with unremitting horror.
'John Rogers, you're an animal. I don't
know you anymore, and I don't want to!"
she shouted back at the horrid sound and
broke the connection once and for all,
John: Don't gobble your food. Sammy, or
you'll turn into a turkey.
Sammy: (turkey sound) Gobble, gobble!
All four of them laugh heartily.
John: Please pass me some more of the
peas, honey What do you say. kids, isn't
your mother the best cook in the world?
Sammy and Ellie: Yay, Mom!
Edna beamed as she handed John the
bowl of creamed peas. He smiled at her.
Edna relaxed. How good it was to have a
nice, civilized Thanksgiving dinner with your
husband and your family just the way you
liked it. Peaceful and loving and together
She decided to play a romantic porn
program after dinner. She would meet John
in an elegant cafe in old Vienna, waltz in a
grand ballroom, share a bottle of cham-
pagne on a barge m the Seine, and then
make love on a bear rug in front of a roar-
ing fireplace. She knew that everything
would be just perfect.
It was an exclusive hotel— you had
to kill someone to get in.
Only the jury could check you out
The apartment was
neat, stylish, and com-
fortable— nal at all like
a machine designed for kill-
For a few seconds after
the entrance door had
locked itself behind him,
Renfrew stood perfectly
still, taking stock of the
place, trying to identify the
most likely sources of
death, The kitchen — al-
ways the most complicated
room in any habitat — was
one area that obviously had
to be avoided Every parti-
cle of food and drop of liq-
uid was suspect in case
poisons had been adminis-
tered; the appliances could
have been wired in such a
way as to electrocute the
could be bombs that would
explode on removal of their
lids. Even the simple act of
opening a cupboard door
might release a cloud of
instant-acting gas into his
face, and one startled in-
take of breath would be
enough to . . .
If you want to stay alive,
Renfrew thought, keep out
of the kitchen.
From his position near
the entrance he could see
into the bathroom, and that
also looked dangerous —
too many chrome fittings
that could spring bad sur-
prises. He was going to
survive the mandatory
seven days in the apart-
ment— of that much he was
sure— but to do so. he
would have to be fantasti-
cally careful. The best plan,
the one he had already de-
cided upon, was to make
himself as comfortable as
possible in the center of the
living-room floor and to re-
main there until the seven
days were up. It would not
be easy or pleasant — the
matter of bodily functions
alone would see to that—
but it was a straightforward
choice between life and
death, and Renfrew much
preferred being alive.
He walked into the living
room and checked it dut
against his requirements. It
measured roughly ten by
ten. had blue wall-to-wall
SCULPTURE BY SHIRTSLEEVE STUDIOS
carpeting, and was furnished with a good-
quality settee, easy chairs, and occasional
tables. Several original abstracts adorned
the cream-colored walls The room could
have belonged to a youngish, intelligent,
not excessively trendy person living just
about anywhere between New York and
Los Angeles — except for two atypical fea-
tures. One was the complete absence of
windows, and the other was the display
tube m the wall above the artificial fire-
On the screen, in pulsing amber sans-
serif lettering, were two words: jury out.
Renfrew examined the room critically and
decided at once that the largest table, po-
sitioned near the middle of the floor, would
have to be moved against one of the walls
to give him the clear central space he
needed When the room armed itself against
him. he was not going to risk even the most
fleeting contact with any of the artifacts it
contained. For all he knew, every piece of
furniture would begin to ooze contact poi-
son as soon as the jury returned the ver-
dict of guilty, and he wanted to be sure he
would not roll over in his sleep and touch
The table was surprisingly heavy when
he tried to move it, and for a moment Ren-
frew feared it was anchored to the floor.
He changed tactics, pushing instead of
lifting, and this time the table slid fairly eas-
ily, creating deep furrows in the carpet.
When it had come to rest against the wall,
he stepped back with widespread arms
and gauged the size of the area he had
cleared. It appeared ample for his needs.
This seems a shade too easy, he thought,
his confidence faltering. Nobody knew what
percentage ol condemned murderers ac-
tually lasted out the week— it was the prac-
tice, for humane reasons, to whisk survi-
vors off to colony worlds in total anonymity
and secrecy— but if the system could be
beaten merely by camping out in the cen-
ter of a room, would they not modify it?
Was there a chance that the carpet itself
could become toxic? Or that rapiers would
zip upward through the floor during the
No. that wouldn't be fair, Renfrew de-
cided, his fears abating somewhat. That
way the apartment would be nothing more
than an execution chamber, and the whole
point of the Capital Punishment Reform Act
of 2061 was that it removed the awful fore-
knowledge of death —the feature of earlier
systems to which humanitarians had most
strongly objected. There had to be some
prospect of getting through the week alive.
It was simply a matter of intelligence de-
termination, and self-control. And of last-
ing seven days without a drink of water
The prison micropedia had been annoy-
ingly imprecise about how long a man could
survive on zero liquid intake. Some of the
quoted authorities had avoided giving any
estimate at all, and others had been con-
tent to state that death would occur after
seven to ten days. The spread, Renfrew
supposed, was due to such factors as the
size, weight, and general health of the sub-
ject and the rate of water loss from the tis-
sues, and in that respect he was doing ail
he could to tip the balance in his favor. He
was naturally pudgy around the middle, and
throughout the four days of his trial he had
loaded all his food with salt and had drunk
copiously of tea. coffee, milk and water.
His tendency to retain fluids, something he
had often bemoaned in the past, had en-
abled him to increase his body weight by
approximately five kilograms— equal to four
liters of life-giving liquid.
That alone would probably be sufficient
to ensure his survival, but Renfrew had gone
further. Knowing in advance that he would
be stripped ol all personal possessions
before being installed in the apartment, he
had taken time after breakfast to spray most
of his skin with an antiperspirant. which,
fortunately, was quite odorless. He sus-
pected that its effectiveness would fade
rather quickly, but closing his pores and
preventing evaporation for even part of a
day gave him that extra edge m the battle
for life. Only two more measures remained
to be taken
Renfrew glanced at the screen above
the fireplace checking that the jurors were
still deliberating. He had been in the apart-
ment less than five minutes, but his de-
fense had gone so seriously awry that he
was half-prepared for a verdict to be
reached in record time. Fortesque. the
young, state-appointed attorney, had tried
to make capital from the fact that the store
security guard shot by Renfrew had him-
self been indicted, for the manslaughter of
an unarmed kid who had tried to run off
with a tray of gold rings. The proposal had
been that Renfrew was defending himself
against a trigger-happy zealot, but it was
obvious to Renfrew that the jurors were in
favor of trigger-happy zealots and would
have been pleased to employ teams of them
to safeguard their own property. At that point
he had begun thinking very hard indeed
about ways of surviving for a week in— to
give the apartment one ol its more popular
labels — the Hereafter Hilton,
The first of the remaining precautions was
to reduce evaporation of bodily moisture
even further by turning the heat down.
Renfrew located the thermostat and ad-
justed it to its lowest level. He then went
into the kitchen, filled a tumbler with waler,
and began sipping it with the intention of
increasing his fluid reserves. The notion of
filling all available vessels and laying in a
week's supply ol water was tempting, but
too dangerous. Any microscopic bubble m
a glass could be a poison container to be
opened by remote control as soon as the
jury had voted. A low but insistent chiming
sound filled the apartment. He set the tum-
bler down, went back into the living room,
and looked at the screen.
It now said, jury voting,
"Vote early and vote often." Renfrew said
aloud in jocular tones trying to neutralize
the spasms of alarm he had felt on realiz-
ing that his very existence was now being
laid on the line. He took a cushion from a
chair and set it in the middle of the floor,
then hesitated, frowning. A cushion was
just as much an artifact as a microwave
oven, just as capable of being booby-
trapped. He skimmed it back onto the chair
and squatted on the carpet, his face turned
toward the screen as he waited lor the final
announcement. In addition to his fear he
could feel powerful undercurrents of ex-
citement, and it came to him that the pro-
visions of the 2061 act had been success-
fully implemented in the present system.
He was about to be sentenced to death.
Yet he had absolutely no sense of immi-
The inevitable reaction to the steady in-
crease in violent crime had begun in the
last quarter of the twentieth century with
one state after another reintroducing the
death penalty. By the middle of the twenty-
first century capital pumshmeni had be-
come almost universal, coast to coast, and
the moral dilemma facing the legislators
had grown in proportion How could one
condemn killing on the one hand while
going on taking human lives with the other 7
Variations in the actual method of execu-
tion had been tried, but the principal ob-
jections to legalized killing had remained
the same: It was totally inhuman to tell a
man exactly when and how he was going
to die, then leave him to sweat out his time.
And if the state was inhuman, could its cit-
izens be expected to be otherwise 7
It was basically a question of how to be
cruel in a kindly way— and a workable an-
swer had come along in 2061. The lengthy,
soul-destroying delays of earlier systems
had been eliminated by direct implemen-
tation of the majority vote of a thirteen-man
jury, and the dreadful certainty of death
had been replaced by the challenge of a
week in the apartment. Not only were the
exact time and method of execution de-
cently shrouded in mystery, but there was
also a ray of hope that the grim event could
be avoided altogether And that made an
Renfrew found that he was tense, alert.
■ stimulated and— above all— confident that
he was going to beat the system. There
remained only a trace of furtive, niggling
doubt. His idea seemed foolproof, but it
had been rather easy to conceive. It had.
in fact, been the first scheme to blossom
in his mind, and he knew perfectly well that
he was anything but a genius — if he could
come up with a successful plan, anybody
could Did this mean that nobody but the
occasional moron ever paid the supreme
penalty? Or was there some other incon-
spicuous factor he had overlooked?
There was another chiming sound, and
the message on the screen was replaced
by a new set of words scribed in raw crim-
son: VOTING COMPLETED — AWAIT VERDICT
On the lower part of the display a sweep
hand began remorselessly erasing a sixty-
second clock. I'm going to be all right, he
Ihought. All I've got to do is stay put for
His gaze picked out two vertical cracks
in the skirtmg board of the wall opposite
him. It looked as if a small, flap-type door
had been built into the base of the wall. He
stared at the door feeling oddly threat-
ened as he tried to guess its purpose.
The apartment was as immaculate as
only an automated cleaning system could
make it, which meant that at night, when
the occupants were asleep in bed, silent
little machines came out of the wails and
scavenged every speck of dirt But he
wasn't going to be in bedl He was going
to be laid out on the floor while the busy
robots came nosing and nuzzling around
him. and any one of them could be capa-
ble of killing him m a dozen different ways
Renfrew looked at the clock. Twenty
seconds until the apartment declared war
He half-rose, his face turning toward the
kitchen, Was there time to run in there,
snatch up the lightweight table, and get
back with it 7 Would he be safe squatting
on top of the table 7 What if he were to . . .?
His hands fluttered to his mouth as he
heard the final chime that signaled the ju-
ry's verdict. He glanced involuntarily in the
direction of the screen, then froze, his chin
sagging with incredulity as he read the three
words electronically emblazoned across
the face of the tube.
verdict: mot guilty.
The breath left his body in a noisy, qua-
vering sob He pushed a hank of hair away
from his forehead, as if giving himself a
better view of the glowing words might
change their import The message re-
mained the same. He was a free man!
Renfrew got to his feet, suddenly con-
scious of how much he had been dreading
the ordeal that had lain ahead. He took a
last look at the apartment, gave a low
chuckle of relief, then strode to the door
with a buoyant tread, keyed up for his first
taste of liberty in many months.
The doorknob did not turn when he
Instead it fired a cloud of poison through
the skin of Renfrew's palm, a poison so
swift-acting that he had no time to realize
he had been tricked by executioners who,
m their determination to be humane, were
not above telling a little white lie.
She tried to rekindle that sense
of wonder, o! enigma . . . of
shoes, ships and sealing wax.
BY NANCY KRESS
Ahree men are walk-
ing on the beach below; one of Ihem will be
I stand at the top of the dune, my feet a
liltle apart, braced against the wind. Gritty
sand seeps into my leather sandals, and
my long blond hair whips around my face,
covering my eyes, then uncovering them, I
know how I look to the men below, in this
bikini-clad body the color of fresh toast.
The first man jogs toward me. He is
perhaps 30, tall, dressed in jeans and a
bulky red sweater with the knotty bumps of
inexpert hand knitting. He moves easily, in
loose, even lopes that smooth out the rocky
ground underfoot, humming an aria off key.
I know he will not do. I look away, and he
jogs by with only one regretful look back
over his shoulder.
As the second man comes closer, I see
that he is quite young, still half child, and
PAINTING BY BOB VENOSA
that he is so absorbed in the book he is
reading as he walks that he hasn't noticed
me at alt. He holds the book with both
hands, fingers and thumbs splayed to keep
the wind trom turning the pages. Over the
top of the garish dust jacket, an artist's
inventive misconception of a spaceship.
the boy's eyes are wide, pale blue, the
pupils dilated as they move intently back
and forth over the page. I can't keep from
smiling— certainly not him!
The third man approaches slowly, from
the opposite direction. He is quite far away;
I wait patiently, the bracelet on my arm
glowing not entirely in reflection of the sun-
set over the ocean. He is looking not at the
sunset but down at his feel, picking his
way over the rocks, avoiding wetting his
shoes in the tide pools. Even I can tell they
are expensive shoes — Italian?— and that
they have been carefully chosen to match
his gray slacks and open-neck siik shirt.
He frowns at the rocks, lips together his
jowls a bit too heavy and his eyes a bit too
red. I touch my bracelet and start down
the dune, angling toward the tine of high
rocks he will cross next. When he is on top
of them he sees me coming toward him.
"I wonder if I might borrow a cigarette."
My voice is husky, low— what I think of as
a deep purple voice. Such men always have
He hands me the cigarette wordlessly,
his eyes appraising They are tight gray,
starllingly pale against his Ian. and very
hard, i take the unlit cigarette and drop it.
grind it on the rock beneath my sandal and
start to run, already changing. By the time
I am halfway down the line of rocks per-
haps 30 feet away from him, the scales
have already begun to appear on my legs
and rump, bright green scales the color ot
new grass. I dive from the end of the rocks,
an impossibly high dive for my starting po-
sition, curving in a high arch and hanging
there, suspended against the sunset as
dancers of ballet — the most beautiful thing
I have seen here — seem to hang sus-
pended before the downward plunge from
their crackling leaps By the top of the dive,
my legs have already fused to tail, silver
green in its backward flip over my bare
breasts. I hit the water in a cloud o! golden
spray, then up again for my hair to writhe
around me in the foam. I just catch his face
in the nanosecond of change from shock
to fear, and then I dive again, my tail break-
ing surface, clear against the flaming sky.
This dive is deep, cold, and strong, only
the glow from the bracelet guiding me. un-
til I surface in the power room, aboard ship,
beyond the moon
"Good morning. Mr Carruthers, sir.
"Good morning, sir How nice to see you
"Morning, Louise. This the mail? I'll take
it in with me."
"Welcome back. Mr Carruthers Did you
enjoy your vacation away from the office? "
"Very nice David, see if Mr. Poole can
see me, right away, in my office ."
"Louise, coffee for two."
"Right away, sir."
'At — good lo have you back! So how was
the action at the Cape"? Lots of sun 9 "
"Lots Josh, what's this report I got trom
Sam Lister on the oil deal 9 Who the hell
came up with those cock-eyed figures on
the new shoreline rigging method, and why
were they leaked to the press without
checking with me?"
"I can explain about that. Al."
"I hope so. I ceriamly hope so
"Let's go into your office. Can we oh
here comes the coffee already. Right on
top ot it. as always! Now. about the oil fig-
ures . . Ihe strategy was—"
The child is not quite three. He stands
behind the tarpaper shack, barefoot on the
dusty ground, sucking his thumb. Small
night noises, crickets and rabbits and the
sloughing of wind in pine, are drowned Out
by the screaming coming from the shack.
"No, no, Lew— God, Lew, no!"
"Lousy fucking bitch!"
The child looks over his shoulder at the
shack. There is a sore on the shoulder,
oozing pus the color of rotted peaches.
The dull nonexpression on the child's face,
in his dark dead eyes, doesn't change until
another sound comes from the shack, the
thud of fist on flesh and bone, followed by
a keening wail that dies away in more thuds.
The child yanks his thumb from his mouth
and starts to run. legs pumping and the
babyish curve ol his belly swaying from
side to side, until he reaches the dark edge
of the wood He runs into a blackberry
thicket, starts to yell, and then abruptly
stops, staring back at the shack The
blackberry thorns grab his cotton shirt and
wet diaper, draw blood that trickles down
his arms and dusty feet in thick, sticky trails
The child makes a low whutfling sound,
eeehhh eeehhh, without hope His dull face
still has not changed expression.
I hop from a clump of ragweed, in the
random moonlight my fur is white, except
for pink nose and ears and the glowing
bracelet where my paws become tiny pink
hands. I can feel the absurd white cotton-
tail twitching behind me, rising with each
hop and then falling as I sit up on my
haunches and use my hands to free the
child from the blackberry thorns He gazes
at me and puts his thumb in his mouth. The
shack behind us is silent.
I twitch my nose at him. then my ears t
cover my eyes with my hands and peek at
him through the lingers. Slowly, reluctantly,
as if it is being dragged from him and he
will regret it later, the child smiles. His milk
teeth gleam in his dark little face. I twitch
my nose again, pick a blackberry, and hold
it out to him. It is hard and sour, not yet
npe. but he eats it. In the warm darkness
his wondering gurgle carries clearly, sharp
as a sword.
"It's the environmentalist lobby. Al. that's
the real stickler Bunch of bleeding hearts,
but they're organized, and they've got their
votes, Danchell, for one— he needs the
support or it's no-go next election, after
that Medicaid fiasco m his district. We can
get our votes, too, o! course- no problem.
Cranston's in Washington now — but not
cheap. You gotta remember that with the
new process the whole shoreline is going
to end up a real mess, and everybody's
holding out for enough time to ride out the
public yelling I carried those figures here.
which is why the total might look a little
high to you, but I fixed it so it wouldn't to
the audit boys, if it comes to that."
"How much shoreline are we talking
about. Josh 7 Exactly."
"Twenty point six miles On your map—
from here to here. Mostly US Seacoasl
Wildlife Preserve— a few small fry. No
Picture three successive circles, inter-
locking but not by much. In the first lies the
immediate sensory world — or what you
think is the immediate sensory world. The
warm rain on your bare arm. the elusive
smell of lilacs, the bitter aspirin dissolving
on your hung-over tongue. Your child in
your womb, your woman in your arms, your
feces in your bowels pushing downward.
In the second circle lie the systems of
your mind, social constructs for creating
necessary order. The Town Line Road.
Swiss tranc, Holy Mother Church, matri-
archal lineage, Napoleonic Code. Mon-
archy, democracy, dictatorship, oligarchy,
communism, socialism. Freemasons, Dow
Chemical Company, Boy Scouts, Black
Hand. Created order, as opposed to. say
a ? + b 2 = c 1 ', which is merely discovered.
In the third circle lie the ambiguities, the
questions without answers, the lonely
province of poets and mystics. You wake
in the night with the warm wind blowing the
curtains in the open window and turn over
in the darkness. For a second you are aware
of the blood in your veins, warm and full,
and the strong beat of your heart against
the sheet, and you think; Yes, but why?
before sleep ebbs back in long waves, and
the question is forgotten. Forgotten, some-
times, until the very end. when it seems too
late to ask it after all. Why here? Why me?
Why now? And after now— what? What be-
fore? And how? Misty questions, changing
shape even as you look at them, like the
bright swirls of color on your inner eyelids
that come only from closing your eyes too
hard. The questions children ask— some
children, the children who pause in the
baseball game at dusk, chewing on the
soiled thumb of their fielder's mitts, to watch
the stars come out and wonder. The third
circle is fluid, shifting the "real" so treach-
erously underfoot that it becomes danger-
ous to move, and the best recourse is to
stand still and wonder, letting the believed
and the unknown dissolve into each other,
The circle itself may not even be round.
"Tyler estimates maybe four months, five
at the outside. He'll put the money through
Mexico, no problem there. But it would be
best to be underway by October, if pos-
sible, because OPEC may be shifting its
policy then, according to what Mahjoub has
been feeding us."
Carruthers leaned back in his chair. It
was a wing chair, one of a pair, hand-em-
broidered in the rich, discreet patterns of
Jacobean crewel. With one finger he traced
the 20.6 miles of shoreline on Poole's map.
Rocky, most of it. and wild — he'd been there
once on vacation.
"Josh, you ever have something com-
pletely inexplicable happen to you, some-
thing you couldn't account for any way at
all? Something maybe unreal?"
Poole lit a cigarette, gaining time while
he assessed the question. II could be an
oblique reference to some mistake Car-
ruthers had once made — as a prelude to
one of Poole's? The press leak? But he had
already pointed out . . . or was the ques-
tion something else entirely, some subtle
way of maneuvering, of throwing him off
balance so Carruthers could probe for any
hidden intentions, weaknesses, over-
looked threats? Or was it an invitation, a
first step toward an alliance against some
coalition Poole hadn't yet seen forming but
Carruthers had? But a man who needed
an ally was a second choice to be one him-
self. Always try to ally yourself with the al-
Finally, Poole said cautiously, "How do
you mean 'inexplicable.' Al? Did some-
thing happen up at the Cape?"
The boys play at the edge of the moor.
Behind them stretches a plain of heather.
before them a rainy pasture, tingling with
green all alive-o. Between heather and
pasture is a crumbling stone wall, two feet
high, that was ancient five centuries be-
"Bang!" shouts one of the boys, waving
a plastic machine gun in the general di-
rection of the other young boy. "Got yal"
"Bloody well did too! Lie down, you have
to be dead!"
"Well, you got to! Them'sthe rules!"
"Won't! You missed 1 ."
I come around the end of the wall,
wheeling a barrow full of iron ore. I am only
as tall as the wall itself, and almost as old.
Knotted gray beard, pointed brown cap,
jerkin and breeches covered with earth from
the mines. Only the bracelet glows bright-
ly — that and my eyes, fiercely blue m the
wrinkled sea of my ancient lace. 1 stop
pushing the barrow — the rocks clink to-
gether softly in protest— and stare at the
boys, who look back at me without wonder.
"Bang!" shouts the first boy. "You're
It is a forbidden indulgence to despair.
Carruthers ignored Poole's counter-
question. 'Just 'inexplicable' — in any sense
we're used to dealing with. Beyond the way
things usually behave."
Poole had had time to make a decision.
They didn't come any tougher than Car-
ruthers. any more ruthless; anything Poole
revealed about past mistaken percep-
tions, past misjudged deals, would be too
risky. He put down his cigarette and lifted
the coffee mug, aware even through his
tension of its heft, its expensive solidity.
"No." Poole said over the rim, "I can't
really say that I have. Al. Usually I can find
the explanation for pretty near everything
The two men stared at each other.
I swoop down over the near-desert,
reaching the lowest point of my wide pa-
rabola over a ranch house, then rising again
over the heads of dusty, unnoticing sheep.
People run out of the open barn, their heads
tipped back toward the night sky.
"Did you see it, Dad? Did you? What do
you think it could have been?"
The man spits into the dust. "Lightnin',
most likely. Heat lightnin'."
"Sure." the woman says, relieved. "Hot-
ter 'n hell tonight."
"No, it wasn't, Dad! It was too . . , too
shaped. Like a silvery oval. It looked more
like . . , like a ship."
The man snorts. "Too much comics, boy!"
"Heat lightnin'," the woman says.
"But you saw it had—"
"That's enough." the man says sharply.
"We got work to do." He spits again, turns,
and walks back to the barn. The other two
follow, but I see the boy look back over his
shoulder at the starry sky, his face lighted
by doubt and longing and a suspicious as-
tonishment, and 1 am satisfied. The Others
will complain — no, never complain, but
point out with gentle, relentless clarity —
that the power drain for this sort of thing is
i. but I am satisfied. It is worth it.
"So we have two options, then," Car-
ruthers said crisply, once more all busi-
ness. "We can go ahead with the shoreline
project and make damn sure Cranston gets
the Washington boys to shove the right pa-
pers around, or we can let this one go to
the environmentalists with lots of hue and
cry. and rack up brownie points, cash, and
voting positions for the big push on the
Poole blinked. "But I didn't think it was
ever a question of — "
"Those are the two options. Josh. And
I'm the one who makes the final decision,
right. Josh?" His eyes chilled the room, light-
. Poole put down his cotfee mug; a few
drops spilled over the edge, onto the teak
table. "Of course, Al!" he said.
"So you better get on the phone, Josh,
and plug your little press leak. The paper
will need a retraction,"
"Yes, Right away."
"I hope it wont damage your network.
"Not al all, Al." Poole said genially, back-
ing from the room. He backed into the door.
"You didn't make any premature per-
sonal investments in the land without tell-
ing me, did you, Josh? Of course not."
"Of course not."
"Good. Get on it right away, then," Car-
Always the third circle slide's down into
the second. The mysteries of faith harden
into the certainties of dogma; the revolu-
tion becomes the new government; the
scientific theory habituates into the factual
limits showing why something else can't
be done. Wondrous, theoretical, possible,
probable, factual, expected, mandatory.
I point this out, yet again, to the Others.
They want something more dramatic and
definite. I can tell; something more like last
time. Not this guerrilla warfare: hit and run,
hiding under this world's own debunked
mysteries to rekindle that sense of wonder:
of enigma, of things not absolutely com-
placently unarguably certain: that it so
Look at what happened last time, I say
again. Afterwards. Anything too organized
will defeat its own purpose. That's the
treacherous genius of their minds: to codify.
Uriel murmurs assent; I can tell he agrees
with what I am doing,
But the time, Gabriel says. There isn't
much time. Look a! the physical state of
the little world, even now. What if you can't
do whatever it is you hope to do with all
this furtive sneaking about . , . in time?
For answer. I slip on the bracelet. It starts
to glow, and I feel the power fill me.
The middle-aged woman in black stands
alone by the flowerless grave, staring down
at the raw earth. A shopping bag with string
handles rests on the ground next to her; it
bulges with the disparately shaped out-
lines of powdered milk, cat food, and day-
old sweet rolls. The woman is not crying.
Her face is set in the sagging lines of re-
signed defeat, curving troughs from nose
to mouth, like wobbly parentheses. She
stands motionless, her wide knees a little
apart, not even waiting. Just standing. The
tombstone says 'John Alfred Reznicki."
I climb from behind the tombstone to on
top of it and gaze down at her. I. too, am
middle-aged — or would be if I were totally
corporeal, which I am not. It is very hard
to hold the slate between here and not here,
a state intended only as transition, not pro-
longed exercise. My bracelet glows franti-
cally, and I put my right arm behind my
almost-back. It is doubtful that John Alfred
would have worn a bracelet.
The woman looks at me with steady eyes.
They are dead-leaf brown, and they don't
widen or close or shift away. I watch her
"Rosa." I say gently.
She continues to watch the tombstone
with detached calm. It is not the calm of
shock; she is not in shock, but I nearly am.
She knows there is nothing after death.
knows it beyond needing to doubt, knows
it with every undeviating cell of her gray
mind, and so is literally incapable of seeing
what she knows does not exist. She looks
through me levelly. straightforward, utterly
unshaken in her unwondering certainty.
Gabriel is surely right. There is not much
Carruthers turned his chair to face the
window. The skyline was impressive even
through fog. but he didn't see it. Absently
his finger traced the line of coast on Poole's
map. up and down and up again. Out the
window he saw ocean, ocean in sunset,
and the impossible flash ot a green-scaled
tail above bare breasts ringed with flailing
blond hair and sea foam.
But how could it be impossible if he had
Carruthers knew he was not going mad,
was not a man who stood in danger of
madness. He might easily stand m danger
of sudden coronary, hypertension, kidnap-
ping, stroke, emphysema, gangland mur-
der, or lung cancer— but not madness. He
trusted his judgment; it had proved too
good too often not to trusl. In his judgment,
he had seen the impossible. Therefore, it
was not impossible He had seen it.
But what else might then be possible?
Jesus H, Christ— /usr what e/se might be
Uriel murmurs again about the power
drain, but not very seriously. He knows that
I know he will manage, somehow. And we
both know that this, however bizarre the
procedure, is a Major Project.
Salvation is expensive.
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